This is the fourth week in our Overwhelmed sermon series. Today we discussed the challenge of unforgiveness and resentment. Brianna suggests that living out of a false identity can be perhaps the greatest source of our struggle to extend forgiveness to ourselves or to others. The way to freedom from our unforgiveness is to remember the truth of who we are in Christ, and to be transformed more fully into our true identity by being transformed by the renewing of your mind.
We all have struggled with extending forgiveness, either to others or to our own self. What is it that makes forgiveness so difficult? What is the key to freedom for resentment? In this sermon Brianna makes the suggestion that a true understanding of who we are in Christ can be the path to liberation and forgiveness. But so often we live from a false identity. We either live in the role of “The Angel” or of “The Garbage Heap”. When we live from these identities, we remain in the chains of unforgiveness.
The Angel false identity is the one who struggles to extend forgiveness to others. The Angel tells herself things such as, “I could never forgive that person. They hurt me too many times. They don’t deserve forgiveness….” The more and more the angel tells herself thoughts like this, the tighter the chains of unforgiveness become.
The Garbage Heap false identity is the one who struggles to extend forgiveness to themselves. The Garbage Heap tells herself things such as, “My sin is too ugly. God could never forgive me for this. I don’t deserve forgiveness…” The more and more the garbage heap tells herself thoughts like this, the tighter the chains of unforgiveness become.
A picture of the truth of who we are in Christ is the key to freedom for “The Angel” and “The Garbage Heap”. For the angel false identity, we must remember that we too are sinners who have been forgiven much. Romans 5 says that even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We are all sinners, we’ve all wandered off, we’ve all hurt people and caused pain. And we’ve all been forgiven. With this truth before us, we are liberated to extend that same forgiveness to others. And by doing so, the chains of unforgiveness and resentment are broken. Forgiveness here, we must make clear, is not reconciliation. If we have been the victims of serious abuse, suffering, violence, harassment, etc; forgiveness does not mean to go and be reconciled to that person who caused you harm. Rather, forgiveness is simply “To release a debt”. By forgiving another person, we are simply releasing them of the debt.
And for The Garbage Heap false identity – we must remember who Christ says we are. In 2 Corinthians 5 we read that we are a new creation. Everything old has passed away and everything has become new! This is the truth of who we are in Christ. We are a new creation. This is the key to freedom for those of us who struggle to forgive ourselves of the pain we’ve caused. Remember the truth that we are a new creation. Our sin does not define us, our past does not define us, but Christ defines us. With this picture of our true identity before us, we must now move forward in living it out and renewing our minds with this truth. It is far too easy to forget who Christ says we are – That we’re all sinnners who have been forgiven much and that we’re all a new creation! So we must tell ourselves this truth over and over again. The more we renew our minds around the truth of who we are in Christ, the more we will be transformed and the more we are able to extend forgiveness.
Brianna offers three take home points for us to practice living in the freedom of forgiveness:
The first take home point is to remember the truth of who you are in Christ. Remind yourself, remind others, over and over of who you truly are.
The second take home point is the power of your thoughts! Our thoughts have a lot of power to them. They can either keep us in chains of unforgiveness, or they can liberate us. So be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Repeat truth over and over again! There is a lot of power in your thoughts!
The third and final take home point is to practice forgiveness. And forgiveness is just that-it is a practice. The choice to forgive is not the challenge. But practicing forgiveness is the hard part. Therefore we must practice is many times over. Continue releasing others and yourself of the pain that we ensued, and as we do this, we too will be freed from our chains of unforgiveness.
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2 thoughts on “Unforgiveness”
We read in Matthew 18:23-35 the following parable,
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Often we talk of unforgiveness in relation to a person who has done something wrong to you or to another person for which you judge their actions as being unforgivable. But unforgiveness can be a two-edged sword as we can undertake an action for which others cannot forgive us.
The above parable covers such a situation.
Commentators suggest “ten thousand talents” is the equivalent of billions of dollars. In other words a debt the servant could never pay back. This is in stark contrast to the small debt (a few thousand dollars) that the fellow servant could not immediately pay.
Naturally we draw from this, given the final verse, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” that this appears harsh and raises a commentator’s question, “Can I be saved if I refuse to forgive others?” The point here is that if the servant that owed “billions” was forgiven his debt (and it was), but this had no real impact on his life(heart) to effect forgiveness for others or, in this case, his fellow servant.
We are reminded of the Lord’s Prayer ‘forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’. We are asking for forgiveness having regard to the action of forgiveness we have already granted to ‘our debtors’. This is also in line with Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
I am also reminded of the saying, “Unforgiveness makes us a prisoner of the past”. And given the ‘Overwhelmed’ series of messages to date being Shame and Depression, it’s not hard to see that unforgiveness can be a factor either directly or indirectly for both situations. In fact, we have situations where Jesus healed (or made whole) people by forgiving their sins.
So as Bianna asks that we renew our mind in the forgiveness that we have been granted, so also our forgiveness of others can lead to both the healing of ourselves and relationships.
Apologies for my typo in your name above. Also, I hope your “old man Greg” comment in the message wasn’t meant to be a test of his forgiveness;-)!