This is the final sermon in a series on Forgiveness. You can choose to read part 1 and part 2 if you missed them.
Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12-17
We’ve spent the last few weeks looking at the importance and the power of forgiveness. We remember that forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. Forgiving is also not the same as trusting. We learned about the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll withholding forgiveness has on us. We also learned Jesus has forgiven us, before we even had chance to do anything wrong, so we must be willing to do the same. In fact, he even commands us to forgive.
All along I’ve been promising you that we would finally get to the ultimate point, which is to learn the steps for forgiveness. And he we are These steps are helpful, and we can’t skip over anything, or else we’ll still be trapped in the negativity of being unforgiving. Each step is a part of the process of receiving healing from God in our lives. Forgiveness is not just for the other person, it is for us and our own physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I’m going to jump right into them today, because there’s a number of them, so you may want to keep track. At the end, I’ll try and give you a memory tool which will hopefully help you remember all the steps.
The first step is to ask God to forgive you for not forgiving others. This may seem like a bit of an odd place to start. If we’re going to be reliant on God then we need to be willing to start with Him each and every time.
We can’t go about making excuses either. We can’t pray to God and say, “God forgive me for not forgiving Joe Smith. I haven’t done it because he moved away, and oh yes, he’s a big jerk.” That’s not going to quite cut it.
The proper thing to do is pray to God, “God, forgive me for not forgiving Joe Smith. I repent of my sin and I seek your forgiveness and healing.”
That’s it. That’s all there really is to the first step. Sort of. We need to remember when we make this prayer to be humble about it. We need to really mean it.
So often our pride gets in the way of this first step. We might think to ourselves, “Why should I have to lower myself, it’s not my fault?” Also, pride can even cause us to think that we’re the victim, which may not always be the case! Pride can also cause us to think that the other person who harmed us is not worthy of any forgiveness.
Thing is, it’s absolutely not true. Jesus died to forgive us all. I know I don’t deserve it! Yet Jesus still offers it to me. So, if I’m forgiven by Jesus for all the nasty things I’ve done in my life, I know he’s going to forgive Joe Smith too. So I guess I should forgive him as well.
Also, if I hold on to the offense from the other person, is that right? Is that’s what’s supposed to happen? Do two wrongs make a right? Pride does nasty things in our heads which we use to validate our own righteousness over others. And that’s not right either.
So when we pray for forgiveness of our own unforgiveness, we must be humble enough to open our hearts for God to reveal any other pride we might be trying to hide.
So that’s the first step, we must choose to forgive and to work with God in that forgiveness.
The second step is a short one, but comes with a lot of baggage. We must stop rehearsing the offense and punishing the offender. And it has to be a conscious choice.
In other words, stop talking about it, because it keeps it alive. If we stop talking about it, it loses it’s power and influence. And, if we stop bringing it up, it not only loses it’s power, it stops punishing the offender. How can forgiven happen if we keep punishing the one who offended us? Sadly, the media is full of people who keep seeking to punish others instead of forgiving them. Those stories are always so very, very sad.
The third step is to listen to God to see what He is telling you about the other person. When we do this, God may reveal to us something about the other person we did not know, which may have led to them hurting us. God may help us to learn compassion for the other person and in the same moment take away our bitterness. When God does this, we can be moved to actually wanting to forgive the person! Although, we may still struggle to actually do it!
The fourth step is to ask God if there was anything we had done to contribute to the problem. Maybe not, maybe we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it’s always good to check, even if it’s something really, really small. If we had some small role in the offense, we need to own it, confess it, and repent of it. I have a whole tool to for this if you need some help in this repentance piece.
Step 5 is to ask what God wants to share with us specifically about the issue or event. This is where God will reveal things about our own lives and about the situation where He is at work and even give you some personal guidance about what you should do. In other words, where is He in all of this.
I was at a prayer meeting and we were told we were going to pray for someone in our circle of influence, which are those people you encounter on a regular basis. It could be family, friends, co-workers and so on. A name came quickly to my mind. I’ve known this person for a long time, and since I became a pastor our relationship changed. He isn’t a church person, yet we had always been quite close. But now it seems we aren’t, even though I still see him on a fairly regular basis. So I was going to pray for him so that he would come to know the Lord as I have come to know the Lord. Surely if he knew the Lord our relationship would be restored.
As I was praying, God revealed to me that it wasn’t him that had changed, but me. And not only that, but my attitude towards him had changed. He couldn’t quite get why I became a pastor, or even a Christian for that matter, but it was now clear to me that I did not use patience or love whenever we talked about matters of faith, or even matters of the heart.
It was not his values which changed, but mine, and my attitude towards my friend was not as loving as it had once been before I became a Christian. I was, quite honestly, rude at times to my friend when he wouldn’t see things like I do now since I have welcomed Jesus in my life.
When I realized this, I wept. It was a hard pill to swallow, but it also became clear to me that I was hindering this person’s faith because of the way I was treating him. So I’ve begun the process of changing how I treat my friend. There is years of healing that needs to happen, but I think we’re starting down that road, and I’m hopeful we will be good friends once again.
If I was not open to what God had to say to me about my role in the relationship, I would never have made that connection because it was God who pointed it out to me, and I suspect that my friend and I would have stopped speaking to each other by now.
It was a tough pill to swallow, for sure, but one that needed to be taken in order for healing and forgiveness to occur.
The sixth step is to listen for how the Lord turned what was meant to be something evil and turned it into something good.
I’ve heard stories of people coming out of Set Free! retreats with huge burdens lifted off their shoulders and pain removed from their lives they were never ever meant to carry. They felt lighter. They felt stronger. They felt healed. They felt free.
So often these stories are connected with something placed on them which was meant to utterly destroy them. It’s like the devil saw a way in which he could make them feel like they were useless, or unworthy, or just a way to keep them from ever experiencing freedom at all.
But at Set Free! they realize God doesn’t want them to feel this way, in fact God can even use these negative things to help them and also to help others. I’ve heard stories of people starting new ministries from their own past experiences that God has helped them through.
Is there anything more freeing than helping someone overcome incredible obstacles you yourself have overcome? God can use experiences of pain and loss to heal others. So we need to listen to see how God can take these negative things and turn them into positives, even if in a very small way.
If we want to look at the life of Jesus, did he not take the pain and death of the cross and turn it into a sign of joy! His death bought our freedom! There’s no greater example of this step than that, is there?
God wants to use your whole life to bring great hope to others; that includes your struggles. If God can do great things in your moments of pain, don’t you want the same for others? Even for the person who caused you the pain? You do. You surely do, because you want everyone to experience the same joy you have in your life, and in your relationship with God the Father of us all.
Once we finally get to step 6, and this is not an overnight process. These first 6 steps take time, and sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort to get through. Once we get through these 6 steps, now we are finally ready to help the person we need to forgive.
Which brings us to step 7. Step 7 is where we pray for our offender.
Luke 6:27-28 (NIV) “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Well, you might ask, what do I pray for? You pray for what you would pray for yourself. Exactly what you would pray for yourself. And you pray for them each and every single day. I can’t tell you what they are, because each person and situation is different. So I simply say, pray for the things you would want prayed for yourself.
At some point God will make it clear to you that you don’t need to pray for this person any longer. Could be days, or weeks, or even year. When you get to this point, you will realize you have truly forgiven this person and you will also realize you have experienced healing, probably even complete healing from that particular hurt.
Now we’re at the 8th and final step.This step goes back to what we just heard from the Gospel of Luke, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
The final step is to bless and do good to those who have offended us.
Jesus makes it clear there are three things we can be doing for others who offend us.
1. We can do good to them.That means, we treat them well and with respect. Even to treat them lovingly.
2. We find ways in which we can bless them. Maybe helping them out in their own time of need, for example. And;
3. we continue to pray for them. Not like in step 7, but more generally for their lives. Praying for their family, or their work, or anything else we may know about them which we can be praying for.
What we need to do is listen to God in prayer to see which of these we should do and how we should do them. In most cases we can do all three of them. But in some cases we simply can’t. If someone has raped someone, then obviously some actions should not be taken, but it doesn’t mean none of them can be done. Boundaries are good and appropriate in cases of abuse. And certainly, I feel prayer is always good and appropriate.
If you are at this point, but still not sure if you have forgiven the other. Keep doing the things in step 8 God has led you to do. Forgiveness will come, sometimes it just takes time. You’d be surprised how your perception and feelings toward someone changes when you are praying for them daily and seeking out ways in which to bless them and do good for them. It’s hard to keep holding onto bitterness and anger when you are continually seeking out ways to show them they are loved.
So those are the 8 steps you need to go through in order to forgive someone. Piece of cake! No?
Ok, maybe not. But you’ve got them all memorized now right? No?
I did promise you a memory tool which may be helpful. So here it is. This also is going to take some practice to remember, and I don’t quite have it mastered myself just yet.
It is: CC OYEE PB
Roles right off the tongue, right? Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Ok, maybe we better walk through it.
First we have CC, which are the first two steps.
We confess. We CONFESS our own faults, sins and weaknesses.
Then we CHOOSE to not keep replaying the incident over and over again.
Next is OYEE. This is the meat of the work we will do. And it’s all based on time spent listening to God in prayer. Each letter in OYEE is what we need to be in prayer about.
First is the O for Offender. And you know what, it could even be ourselves! We could be needing to forgive ourself at times! With this prayer we listen for what God is telling us about the person who has hurt us.
Then the Y is for yourself, as the one who has been hurt or let down.
Then the first E is for the event itself. Ask God where he was in the moment.
The second E is for evil. Ask God to reveal to you how he can turn this bad thing into a good thing, how he can turn something meant as evil into something for his glory!
And finally, if we want all of this to stick, we need to use some good old fashioned PB, get out the peanut butter.
P for prayer. Pray for the other person.
B for bless. Pray for good things and find other ways in which we might be able to bless them!
CC OYEE PB.
Ok, so it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so here’s a good way in which to remember it.
We have been CC’d on this process. CC is a term we use for mail, we “carbon copy.” In this case we are cc’ing ourself to remember we need to confess and choose.
So have been cc’d to remember the steps, O YEE of little faith! And we top it off with some sticky peanut butter.
CC, OYEE of little faith… Peanut Butter! This is just silly enough we might be able to remember it!
I have to give thanks to my friend Rev. Kimberly Heath in Brockville who came up with this memory tool. And to be honest, she’s probably the only one who could have come up with it.
So this is the end of our series of messages on forgiveness. I’ll reiterate what I said in the two previous messages. If you need help with these things, let me know. I am more than happy to help you work through all these steps.
If things are too difficult because the incident you are working with is too painful, then let it take time and go slow. And again, let me know and I can help you.
God wants you to know healing in your life. He wants you to remove all barriers which inhibit your life with Him. He wants you to be free.
Holding onto offense and bitterness is the root of many problems in our lives. So we need to learn to let them go through a powerful encounter with God. The 8 steps we just covered are a great tool to help you do just that.
If we choose to hold onto the pain then we are choosing to not forgive and are also choosing to keep an obstacle in our own life between ourselves and God.
This creates a prison of pain in our lives that will continue to grow and fester and will become like a large weed that will infiltrate all other areas of our life.
And God wants us to be free. Free from all pain, from all bondage, some all sin so that we may get even closer to Him and receive the love, grace, mercy and freedom he has in store for us, when we let him into our lives fully.
I know some of you have found this series particularly helpful. I know we are all carrying some weight of unforgiveness in our lives. God wants to help us with that. He wants to set us all free to be his children.
So let’s not be afraid of the journey. It may be hard at times. It may even cause us great anxiety to go there, but in the end, we will realize the healing power of God and be ready to take the next steps he has for us all.
Let us pray,
You are the master of all that is good. You have shown us the incredible power of forgiveness and we ask you to work with us through this long process of healing.
If we struggle, if we fail, help us to pick ourselves up again and start over. Maybe even leaning a little more on you for help as we go.
Be with us Lord Jesus, in all aspects of our lives, in joy and in pain, so we may share in your amazing grace.
This we pray in your strong and powerful name. Amen and amen.