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February 4, 2018


 Today, we are wrapping up our series, “The Shack”.  The main character, Mack Phillips spirals into a deep depression after the kidnapping and murder of his young daughter.    He receives a mysterious letter urging him to go back to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.  Mack goes to the shack and encounters the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.    And this week Mack is questioning God with “so you just let him get away with it?”


Mack does not want to forgive but God tells him this is the path to healing.  “We’re on a healing trail to bring closure to this part of your journey”, God tells him. 

This is the toughest challenge.  Forgive the killer.  Jesus said “love your enemies”.  Forgiving must be extremely important to God because there is a lot spoken about this in scripture.  And I think part of not forgiving comes from not wanting the ENEMY to get away with what they have done to us or to a loved one.

Years ago, I was sexually molested by a family member. A man married to my mother’s sister. Back then this sort of thing was not spoken about, nor was there anything to do if this should happen to you.  But I did harbor a lot of anger and no forgiveness toward this man for many years.


When I came to this church, I attended a UMW meeting where Ms. Pinkie Mayfield was present. The question was asked if any of us had someone we did not forgive.  I said “yes”.  Ms. Pinkie said I must forgive him.  I said I did not have to.  She explained that he was a child of God and God expected me to forgive him.  I explained to Ms. Pinkie that if he was God’s child, then God needed to forgive him.  He’s not my kid he’s god’s kid.  Let God forgive him.

But in time I came to understand our scripture lesson for this day.

Luke 6:27-38   Common English Bible

27 “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31 Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you. 32 “If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35 Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36 Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.  37 “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38  Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

This message is not one that is easy to hear.  Our natural inclination is NOT to “turn the other cheek”. 

We are naturally opposed to what Jesus is saying about this.  This is a love that is incredibly tough on us to live out.

What if we find out that someone spoke badly about us and it was not true?  What if someone hurt our feelings, what if someone stole from us?  These are a little less horrendous than kidnapping, murder, rape….but nonetheless hurt us.  What are we to do?  Scripture says turn the other cheek.

During the time Jesus walked earth, it gave the enemy a dilemma.  Turning the cheek meant now the second slap would have to be with the left hand (which was not used back then because it was considered dirty as it was used as the cleaning method for yourself after the bathroom).

So that might have been a motivation or basis for that but in this day and age, we do NOT have that dilemma so what is the living word telling us?  What are we actually being told to do?

When we hear our Lord’s words about turning the other cheek, there are problems with taking this so literally as in the case of let’s say a wife beater or a rapist…. God was trying to make this statement without exceptions so that we could see the importance of it.  So that we could recognize the emphasis He was placing on forgiveness.

Romans 12: “Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.”

Surely God must be kidding.  No we just read it in Luke.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  We’re to do good to those who hate us, curse us and we are to pray for those who mistreat you.  We are supposed to pray for them.

“Oh, Lord, I pray that You would just make them so happy!”   This person just swindled me out of $30,000.  I pray you bless him.   Oh Lord, he just molested me.   I pray he has a happy life. I am just human….I do not understand that but I am willing to try to do that in obedience of what I know God wants of me.  Quite frankly when I pray for the happiness of my enemies, I am not sincere.  I would rather those who have done me wrong or done others wrong get hit by a bus.  I am merely being obedient.

I ask God’s help in this matter. I tell God that I am struggling with this prayer but that I believe Him when he says I must pray for my enemies.  I do pray to God for HIS presence in their lives. I believe they need that.

When we have been wronged, we are literally faced with a choice. We can hold on to blame, demand justice, demand punishment from the guilty party, or we can do as God wants us to do.  We can choose mercy which is the path to forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is where justice and mercy kiss.”  (I like that sentence)  I got it from our notes on the Shack.

The reality is that what we choose will come back to us.   Here’s how Jesus just told us in Luke, “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged.  Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” 

Now let’s face it, if something happens and we are the guilty party, we sure do want mercy for ourselves….don’t we? We want the forgiveness ….  We want the mercy.  We ask for forgiveness and we pray it is given to us…but not for the guy who has done us wrong. 

If they’ve hurt us bad enough, we want them to suffer for what they have done. We want them to burn in hell.  We want them to hurt as they have made us hurt.  We want them to pay for the crime.  

In speaking with my niece Trendy on Friday who is the Executive Director of a home in San Antonio for abused children, she was stating that often these children who have been mistreated, physically and sexually abused are told that they have to forgive their perpetrator right away if they want to heal.

Listen, this is a tough thing to ask of a child. This is a tough thing to ask of any of us.   Forgiveness is not always instant.  It certainly is not easy.  And the necessity of forgiveness is not for the party that did the wrong.  IT IS FOR YOU.  It is a healing for you….not them. 

It is a chance to take the cold hard place in your heart and heal it so that the one who wronged you can no longer control your heart. And sometimes it takes a long time for the healing to take place because it takes a long time for forgiveness to happen.

The good news for us is, God is righteous and he judges fairly.  He does not play favorites and he does not overlook sin and evil.  No one gets away with anything.

Luke 38:  “Give and it will be given to you.  The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”  What if what we give is not good….what if it is evil.   Well according to scripture, the portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.

But God cannot help but love us all.  It is his nature and he loves us all equally.  In 2 Peter 3:9    “He wants all of us to be restored to Himself”.  All of us….He wants all of us to be restored. Even those people we want to burn in hell – God still loves them and wants them.

When we can look at people who’ve hurt us with compassion and pray what Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.  There’s a party that goes on inside of us.   And a gift is given.  But the gift is actually given to ourselves.

Now, I believe…, and Jimmy Yarborough said it in bible study Wednesday, that this scripture of choosing forgiveness is one of the most difficult things God asks us to do, especially if we believe that whoever hurt us is in the wrong and doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.  And the worse the offense, the harder it probably is to forgive.

The Shack study notes stated that the problem with not forgiving is that it’s like us drinking poison, hoping that it hurts the other guy.  In reality, we are the ones who suffer from it.  The longer we hold onto our blame and hate, the more it grows within us.  It is like a cancer, spreading and consuming us.

So, how do we forgive, how do we let go?  In the movie God tells Mack “I’m not asking you to excuse what he did. I’m asking you to trust Me to do what’s right and to know what’s best”.  I love that.  because that is what we are to do. Trust God knows best.  Trust God will do what is right.  Trust that God’s love is enough for us and enough to heal our hurt.

Forgiving can be a long process especially if the wounds are deep.  Let the words “I forgive you” be a start.   We may have to repeat that over and over again until it becomes more than words.  Those words are only the start of the beginning of your choice to let go of your anger, blame and bitterness.  It is truly a time of “letting go and letting God”.

It took me years to finally forgive the man who hurt me.  But I did, I do.  Now that unforgiveness no longer controls me nor do any of the memories.  And friends, I just shared this story with you for the sole purpose of letting you know if I can forgive someone who has done something so unforgivable, than perhaps it will soften your heart to forgive someone who has done something unforgivable to you.

In Colossians 3:13 Paul says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Just how does God forgive us?           1 John 1 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

With God’s forgiveness you are given a gift of freedom.  Instead of your heart being full of hatred, it is full of love and peace. And the good news is we do not have to try to forgive someone on our own.  God is there to help us.  God is real, he is personal and he is close.  God knows exactly what we are facing all the time and is by our side through all our trials and tribulations.    God is righteous and he is a fair judge.  He does not overlook sin and evil.  Everything has consequences and I do not believe anyone gets away with anything.  God sees it all.  God knows it all.

You may still be thinking there is just no way I am going to forgive the jerk who has wronged me.  Maybe you are even thinking like I used to:  Let God forgive him…After all He’s not my kid.  Jesus talked about the grace of forgiveness and why it’s essential:

“If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.”  Matthew 6.14-15

And we know in Matthew 18 Jesus tells Peter if it takes 70 times seven, you keep forgiving. 

“Drink it, all of you; this is my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” — Matthew 26 …Now that is forgiveness.

I pray that God has just spoken to you today and you heard him.  I pray that you heard why it is important for you to forgive others and forgive yourself, and that you trust God more than yourself.  That you let God judge.  Let God bring healing to your deepest hurts.  Let God bring peace and hope to your place of despair.

 I pray that you start today with the words “God forgive me” or the words “I forgive you”, and that you start to let go of the anger in your heart by not forgiving  and replace it with God’s love.