Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about conflict resolution and unity in youth group. The first step towards peace is to live with the desire to Glorify God, because you never know when conflict will strike. The second step is to Get the Log Out Of Your Own Eye first by prayerfully asking God to show you if you have anything you need to confess. Since the goal of peacemaking is unity, the third step is to Gently Restore. (The following was drafted and taught by Kevin Campbell.)
You and your friend got into a fight. Afterwards you realized you were in the wrong, so you apologized. He forgave you, and you moved on. A few months later he brings it up again as one of the reasons he has a difficult time trusting you. And you’re left wondering… “Did he really forgive me, or did he just say he did?”
Last week we talked about “Gently Restoring” the relationship that was broken. This week we’re focusing on being reconciled to each other. But what’s the difference between “Restoration” and “Reconciliation?”
- Restore: the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. To fix or put things back the way they were. To make it right.
- Reconcile: to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent: to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable: to mend a relationship.
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.”
Think about someone who’s recently hurt or offended you… now think about how many chances you’re willing to give that person. Seven chances could seem like a lot of chances! Instead, Jesus says we need to forgive them seventy-seven times!
Do you think Peter looking for a quick way out by saying seven times, or do you think he was being forgiving and spiritual? Jesus responds to Peter’s spiritual answer and takes it to an entirely new level.
Have you ever had someone sin against you 77 times? Do you think Jesus was saying, “Once that person does it 78 times, then you don’t have to forgive him?”
Of course not. He is making a point about not keeping track of offenses.
Forgive as God Forgave You
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
This is a huge concept! Even though Christians have experienced the greatest forgiveness in the world, we often fail to show that forgiveness to others.
How often do we think to ourselves “I forgive him; I just don’t want to have anything to do with him again.”
Just think, however, how you would feel if God said to us, “I forgive you; I just don’t want to have anything to do with you again”? Praise God that he never says this! Instead, he forgives you totally and opens the way for genuine reconciliation with HIM
Four Promises of Forgiveness
We can sometimes say that we forgive someone, but it’s just words and we don’t actually mean it. If you want to be sure that you are truly forgiving (and reconciling) with your offender, you can measure your forgiving heart by these four promises of forgiveness:
- “I will not dwell on this incident.”
- “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
- “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
- “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”
This is exactly what God does for us, and it is what he calls us to do for others.
By making and keeping these promises, you can tear down the walls that stand between you and your offender. You promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. When we forgive others like this then we are showing people a beautiful picture of how God forgives us through Jesus Christ.
Final Clarification on Trust and Forgiveness (added after initial publication)
Forgiveness and Trust are not the same thing. “Forgive and Forget” is not entirely biblical. Forgiveness is given; Trust is earned. Jesus’ resurrected body still had holes in his hand (Thomas stuck his finger in them, remember?). Remembering doesn’t mean you continue to harbor hate and wrath… there are simply some things we cannot (and should not) forget.
You may forgive an abuser, but you should not trust them enough to hurt you any further. You may forgive someone who has stolen from you, but still allow them to receive the legal punishment for their crime. Sin brings real results: death, prison, restraining orders, etc.
The emphasis in this series has been focused on day-to-day offenses. For the most part, forgiveness means that we allow that person to regain our trust. That involves giving the person smaller opportunities to demonstrate trustworthiness. It might be as small as simply being in the same room without getting into a fight, or simply agreeing to keep distance from each other and not constantly living at war with each other.