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Forgiven and Forgiving

• Greg Boyd

Jesus teaches about the importance of forgiving others who have done us harm, even saying that the Father will not forgive us if we don’t forgive. What does this mean? Why is forgiveness so important? How do we practice it? These are questions that Greg explores in this crucial sermon for our times.

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Forgiveness is simply releasing a debt, turning the offending person over to God. This teaching raises the question: if the Father’s forgiveness towards us contingent upon us forgiving others? In some sense, our forgiving others is inextricably bound up with God forgiving us, but how?

The importance of forgiving others is one of the most reoccurring teachings in the New Testament. Paul wrote: “Be angry (orgē) but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (paraorgē) and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4: 26-27). Paul was saying when you’re angry, don’t sin by refusing to deal with this anger and be done with it because when your anger becomes submerged anger it opens the door for the devil to begin to use that bitterness to eat away at every aspect of your well-being.

Unforgiveness is spiritual cancer. Studies show that people who hang onto grudges have higher rates of cancer, strokes and other diseases. They tend to have less satisfying relationships with others and are overall less happy than people who had learned how to let go of grievances.

With that in mind, is it the case that the Father won’t forgive us if there is someone we haven’t forgiven? It’s not that we forgive others so that God will forgive us. Rather, our forgiving others is predicated on, and motivated by, the forgiveness we’ve already received in Christ. What Jesus did on the cross he did for everybody. Jesus bore the sin of the world, and by his self-sacrificial death and resurrection, he atoned for and abolished the sin of the entire world.

On the cross, all is forgiven on Gods side. But this forgiveness only reaches us and benefits us when we acknowledge that we need to be forgiven and accept that we are forgiven, which is part of what it means to place your faith in Jesus Christ. Even as Christians, there are things we can do and attitudes we can cultivate that hinder our ability to receive God’s love and forgiveness. At the top of the list is unforgiveness. When we refuse to release others from whatever debt they incurred by wronging us, we give the devil a foothold to begin to wreak destructive havoc in our life. Our capacity for receiving the Father’s love and forgiveness is diminished.

How then do we release someone from a debt they incurred by wronging us? First, acknowledge a wrong was committed and give yourself permission to feel the pain of this and to grieve over it. Forgiving another person does not in any way minimize this wrong.

Second, let Jesus in on your pain. God wants to be with you on the inside of your pain.

Third, remember the enormous debt that God has forgiven you. The wrong may be inexcusable, but remind yourself that God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you fully appreciate just how much inexcusable sin God has forgiven you and remind yourself of the unsurpassable suffering God had to endure in Jesus to bring about your forgiveness.

Fourth, let it go. Turn the debt over to God who alone knows the degree to which people are acting out of their free will or acting out of the prequel of things said and done to them. Trust God to hold them accountable for what they have done. “Leave all vengeance to God.”

Finally, pray for your enemies. If the offense done to you was particularly grievous, place this person on your “Pray for Enemies” list. This gives God a chance to heal your woundedness, and to help you keep from grabbing hold of the debt you feel you’re owed.

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Topics: Forgiveness, Grace, Prayer

Sermon Series: Sermon on the Mount, When You Pray

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
Group Study Guide
The MuseCast: February 15

Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 6:9-15

    Pray then in this way:
    Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial,
    but rescue us from the evil one….
    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
    but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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6 thoughts on “Forgiven and Forgiving

  1. Steph says:

    I just want to share some observations with you all and hope that it would be considered and maybe prayerfully thought about. In my experience and healing journey with Abba there really is not a lot of hype or striving to claim “Victory” in God. He has won already. There isn’t a lot of pressure to engage in these behaviors. For people who have had any trauma in their past this kind of display of who God is can be very triggery. God is gentle, kind, patient and fully of mercy. Some people like hype I get that. Just “consider” how this type of “worship” is very triggery for some who transfer the hype over to performance. Something important for the day and age we are in. I would think. God always comes in the quite still whisper. I am here. I am for you! Not in loud hype. Thank you for considering my input. It’s also quite insensitive for people who are grieving. Which there are some of us too. Grieving to purge and replace with more of the “real deal.” Abba!

  2. Steph says:

    Ok…. Added with Neuroplasticity and Re Wiring the Nervous system it’s totally TRUE. For people with Trauma the layers are multi faceted and the approach to healing is a holistic one. We are all in process. I have chronic lyme. This is another layer. The “Experience” supercedes the knowledge. I am healing with many tools. So thankful for tools like DNRS and Nervous System work which is the whole package. “Those People” are precious valuable and worthy humans. Watch the language please!! That’s a we/them mentality. “Some” of us see the whole forgiveness from many dimensions. Stress from MANY sources gets stuck in the body and that’s why we have an explosion in Trauma based therapies. People with chronic illness have many layers… Once again it’s not as simple as this. Need new novel approaches to bringing community. Gentle. Calm. Peace.

  3. stephanie says:

    I FORGIVE you Greg Boyd for using language that makes it sound like “we” are somehow worse off or bad for having had a real hard journey. It’s a “human experience” we ALL go through. We are ALL experiencing layers of hard. Different for all of us. I wont be going to WH any time soon. It’s not who I want to be or how it is.

  4. Tim says:

    I would like to add this passage to Greg’s interesting sermon. If we don’t Internalize God’s forgiveness it can hinder our spiritual growth and ultimately turns us into out-of-control, unloving people. The bible is very insightful about our sinful condition.

    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately. But concerning the one who lacks such things – he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins.
    (II Peter 1:5-9 [NETfree])

  5. Lorie says:

    I’m not triggered by this as I once was but I don’t think it’s trauma sensitive… but I also don’t think Greg meant to be offensive either.

  6. Juniper says:

    The amount of times I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, dismissed, diminished, disregarded 🙁

    For Autistic individuals who are Monotropic, who’s strength of focus and finishing tasks to completion, who are innately tuned toward loyalty and deeper authentic connexion due to our beta waves, unresolved issues coupled with a natural hyper-focus, create a hard conscious dissonance.
    One thing I don’t know how to ‘release’ is how an ex called me unredeemable because I couldn’t understand what he was saying or not saying (calling me unteachable), falsely judging me and demanding apologies for things I didn’t do. I know I’m not hopeless, I was still emerging from so much childhood trauma I couldn’t recognise due to being so withdrawn I was a ghost of a self and just needed practical guidance and wisdom (which I eventually found).

    I have been expected to be sympathetic and understanding without the ability to recognise I wasn’t being responded to the same. I’m not sure I could hate these others, it’s that I loved them and don’t know how to reconcile what happened with an impending future. One I have matters of business left over with and his wife has made things difficult – she and her friends were quite vicious to me before he and I broke up; he falsely held things against me things she actually does.

    It’s the double-binds that I recall and the overwhelming amount of stuff that pops into memory on any given day. It’s just an amazing amount. Currently, I’ve been ghosted by both, I couldn’t say direct to them what harms were caused and that I forgive, but even when I tried to in the past I think I was met with manipulation. I also feel it’s wrong to present these things to an ex who’s now married is crossing a line, so trying to continually work out how to let that go. In the case of a family member, who before she ghosted me accused me of a thing which – not only misappropriated and warped the meaning of – but is something she continues to do, I am haunted by a future relationship which of course I desire, but it cannot be the dynamic of the past. And as parents get older one is supposed to expect they are stuck in their ways in order to be Realistic about matters never changing. I am afraid of putting myself in harms way. I have been robbed on repeat and while they don’t need to pay me back, I’m afraid I cannot discern the signs in the future. I cannot relate with Neurotic mindset and behaviours, I misinterpret them often. Sympathy with / for these others has often been used against me.

    This woman describes quite well, the things we silently go through in life: https://www.instagram.com/thearticulateautistic/

    Am I asking about things which matters of forgiveness are muddled up with? Wisdom, discernment, understanding, reading and studiousness have all brought a great deal of relief. But not reconciliation and justice. How long does one grieve a parent they didn’t have, who’s still alive and a step parent who manipulated the other so there was a fraction of a relationship. I feel God has stepped in repeatedly. But I still have these broken things in my life I don’t know how to fix.

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