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Categorized | From the Pulpit

Forgiveness

Pastor Inge Whittemore

East Nelson United Methodist

9024 18 Mile Rd, Cedar Springs

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” Matthew 18:21-22 NIV.

There is an old story about a woman who was bitten by a dog and didn’t realize that the dog had rabies. When she finally did go to the doctor, he told her that it was too late and advised her to put her final affairs in order. So the woman took up a pen and a piece of paper and began writing. She wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally, the doctor said, “That surely is a long will you’re making.” She snorted, “Will, nothing! I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!”

That made me laugh but I get it!  Some people are hard to forgive; yet sometimes that person who is hard to forgive is ourself. There’s a book titled “Forgiveness” by Marjorie Thompson. It’s a great book and I recommend you read it. As I began to read it, I stopped for the first time with the thought: “We have a desperate need for forgiveness.” It’s the first forgiveness that needs to happen because we often learn from experience. 

Thomson writes in chapter 4 that at times we can’t quite believe that God would forgive certain sins of ours …that we are truly loved unconditionally, all of us, in our own various and often repeated and continued sin. Some of us might still struggle with the idea that we CAN be forgiven because we’ve messed up so much! Like Groucho Marx said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” We basically are saying we can’t possibly believe in a God who could love us as we are or forgive us after all that we’ve done. 

That surely sets a very high bar for God to forgive us. It’s actually almost arrogant, certainly not very humble. We have high expectations for God and really low ones for ourselves. When we find that we have not truly forgiven ourselves for something that we caused, then we get to a point where we struggle to receive the forgiveness that God is giving us. 

We also need to understand that when God forgives us it doesn’t mean we get a “get out of jail free” pass. Sometimes our sins and errors and mistakes have consequences that we must stand up and accept. We knee to forgive ourselves, but we still also need to accept that what we’ve done might take others time to gain their trust in us or we might have to pay the fine, do the time, wait humbly for those we’ve hurt to learn of our contrite hearts and change of direction. May our prayer be as the psalmist wrote, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Ps 51:10 NIV.

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