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Why Should I?
bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint
against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
In the Feb 23, 2001 edition of the Financial Post, published out of
Toronto, a man took out an ad seeking employment. I want to read the ad
to you this morning, and as I do, I want you to think about this question:
"Would you hire this man?"
The headline of the ad said, "Employment Wanted, Former Marijuana Smuggler."
Here's the text: "Having successfully completed a ten-year sentence, incident-free,
for importing 75-tons of marijuana into the United States, I am now seeking
a legal and legitimate means to support myself and family.
Under "Business Experience," the man wrote: "Owned and operated a successful
fishing business, multi-vessel, one airplane, one island and processing
facility. Simultaneously owned and operated a fleet of tractor-trailer
trucks conducting business in the Western United States. During this time,
I also co-owned and participated in the executive level management of 120
people world-wide in a successful pot smuggling venture with revenues in
excess of 100 million annually. I took responsibility for my actions and
received a ten-year sentence in the United States, while others walked
free for their cooperation."
Here are the "Attributes" he claimed: "I am an expert in all levels
of security. I have extensive computer skills, am personable, outgoing,
well educated, reliable, clean and sober. I have spoken in schools, to
thousands of kids and parent groups over the past ten years on "The consequences
of choice" and received public recognition from the RCMP for community
service. I am well traveled and speak English, French and Spanish. References
available from friends, family, the U.S. District Attorney, etc." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Now honestly, would you hire this man? I don't know about you, but I
have mixed emotions when I read the ad. On one hand, he has paid his debt
to society and should be given another chance. On the other hand, to be
totally honest, I'm not sure if I would offer him a job if I had one available.
If you wouldn't, why wouldn't you? For me, it is that hiring him would
involve a large element of risk. On the surface, I ask questions like,
"would he use my assets to conduct illegal activity? Has he really changed?
Has he really paid "his debt to society? Would he really be an asset to
But when I go deeper. When I dive into my soul for answers, I'm not
left asking questions about him, but about me-am I able to forgive people
like Christ would want me to? Forget about this guy for now, I'm not specifically
talking about him anymore. In general, am I a forgiving person?
Ephesians 4:32 says NIV "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving
each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you."
Am I willing to forgive others like God forgave me? Psalm 103:12 tells
how God forgives, it says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far
hath he removed our transgressions from us." Am I willing to take a chance
on others-to risk my trust once again and forgive?
How are you at forgiving? A study conducted by the University of Michigan
and partly funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, found young
adults; aged 18-44 were less likely to forgive others than middle aged
adults (45-64) and older adults (65 and up). Younger adults were also less
likely to believe they had been forgiven by God. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
I don't mean to suggest by citing this study that middle aged adults and
older adults don't have issues with forgiveness, but certainly I want to
underscore that young adults, those between the ages of 18-44 do struggle
with forgiveness-being able to give it and receive it. How about you?
Tonight, we're going to talk about how to become a forgiving person,
but this morning, we're focusing on the question "Why should I become a
forgiving person?" On one hand, forgiveness is a totally unselfish act.
Forgiveness is the ability to put my own hurt aside for the good of others.
But on the other hand, forgiveness is something I do for myself.
The study I cited a moment ago suggested that people who forgive experience
physical and mental health benefits. Research also indicates the health
benefits are affected by a person's willingness to forgive others, their
willingness to forgive themselves, and feelings of being forgiven by God.
For instance, people who forgive reported decreased psychological distress,
including fewer feelings of restlessness, hopelessness, and nervousness.
Young adults who reported high levels of self-forgiveness were more likely
to be satisfied with their lives. Older adults who reported high levels
of forgiveness for others were more likely to report increased life satisfaction.
In her book, An Invitation
to Healing, Lynda Elliot writes about a struggle she had with a
neighbor when she was in her twenties. "For months, I replayed the hurtful
scene in my mind," she writes, "talking about it often with a friend. As
I expressed my feelings over and over, my pain became deeper and more invasive.
It was becoming a part of me."
One day as Lynda relived the scene again, her friend asked, "Do you
know we become like the people we think about most?" Lynda heard her friends
voice and God's voice at the same time. She says, "I had a choice to make.
If I choose to behold Jesus, to focus on Him, I could be transformed into
His image. Likewise, if I continued to behold the image of my neighbor,
I could be transformed into her image. In fact, that was already happening."
Lynda had a choice to make. She could grow into the image of her neighbor
and reflect her evil, or she could grow into the image of Christ and reflect
Tim Keller says, "At the very least, forgiveness prevents me from becoming
as evil as the other party." Think about it for a moment. If you don't
forgive, you will become as evil as the person who wronged you. The transformation
may be slow, but before long, you will become bitter and angry and consumed
by the wrong. Just like the movie, The Lord of the Rings. I understand
that the basic plot-dynamic of the movie revolves around the conundrum
of the Great Ring of the Dark Lord. The 'good' people have found his ring,
but they can't use the Dark Lord's own power against him without becoming
just like the one who made the ring. They can, as it were, defeat the Dark
Lord, but only by becoming an evil Dark Lord in his place. The lesson is
clear: unless we forgive our enemies, our anger could turn us as demonic
as it has turned them." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Fred Luskin, a psychologist from Stanford University says, "Holding
on to hurts and nursing grudges wears you down physically and emotionally.
Forgiving someone can be a powerful antidote." (Reader's Digest, March
2002, p. 173)
If the guy you are withholding forgiveness is as big of a jerk as you
think he is, then he could care less if you're mad at him. Your spite isn't
affecting him at all. Think about it a minute. Am I right?
Luskin continues "Forgiveness isn't about condoning what happened, It
is about breaking free from the person who wronged us." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Forgiveness is the only way to keep the people that harmed you from
turning you into them. The only way to break their control over you and
what you think about is to forgive. Is it risky? Yes. Will they wrong you
again? Probably. Jesus taught us, "And if he sins against you seven times
a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."
(Luke 17:4 NASB)
Why should you forgive those that harm you? One answer is so you can
be obedient to Christ who commanded you to do it. Another is because it
will help you physically, emotionally and spiritually. But the big answer
is because, as a sinner, you need forgiveness too. In his book, The Spacious
Heart, Miroslav Volf writes, "Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the
enemy from the community of humans and exclude myself from the community
of sinners." ( p.57.) Jesus said, "For if you forgive men when they sin
against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you
do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
(Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)