After attending the ARC conference in Charleston this week, my sermon preparation was behind schedule. I prayed on Friday morning for the Lord to bring to mind the right message. It was more a cry for grace, that God would overlook my procrastination. My mind went right away to the subject of forgiveness. Ideas began to come, and about five minutes later, I thanked God for answering in such a timely fashion.
More thoughts and ideas came as I sat down to write. The message was complete in about three hours, something very unusual. Clearly, forgiveness is something I needed to study for myself.
We are in a series on building healthy families, and I thought about a painful moment as a kid. I have incredible parents, and I’m so thankful for them. But, there was a time when they forgot about me. Of all places, it happened in church. The service was a long one, and the sermon was challenging to follow. So, I crawled under the pew for some quiet time. I soon fell asleep. When I woke up, the old church was dark. I thought I was in a scary dream. I cried for dad and mom but only heard the echoes of my voice. I stumbled through the abandoned space, with only the soft glow of the stained glass above the baptismal to guide my way. I continued to call, but no answer. Had the rapture happened?
That’s when I ventured out into the hallway by the sanctuary and saw the dark stairs leading into the basement. I decided to check it out. If you’ve watched any scary movies, you know never to go down to the basement alone. But blindly, I went, desperate for rescue. At the bottom was a closed door. I opened it and saw the entire congregation having an after-party. There my parents were laughing it up with food, fun, and fellowship. They looked at me and tousled my hair as if to say, “Toughin’ up, buttercup!” After that, I never fell asleep in church again.
Those we love the most are often the ones who hurt us most deeply. Hurts in time become wounds, like a cut, bruise, or burn on our skin. If we ignore them, they become infected, turning into bitterness, resentment, and anger, destroying the peace of our family and friendships.
God help us to forgive. Forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s a decision of the will made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know who has wounded you today. But I pray you’ll ask for the grace to forgive. Let it go so you can get well again. Let’s remember the incredible gift of forgiveness we’ve received when Jesus gave his life on the cross for us. Freely we’ve received. So, let’s freely give.
Ephesians 4:30-32 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”