Forgiveness is a funny thing: it
warms the heart and cools the sting.
Following the Civil War, Robert E.
Lee was visiting in Kentucky where one lady showed him the remains of
what had been an enormous, old tree.
This tree stood directly in front of
She bitterly cried to General Lee of
how its limbs and trunk had been shattered by Federal artillery fire.
Having poured out her anguish she
looked to the old soldier for a condemnation of the North.
Following a brief silence, Lee
responded, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.”
It is better to forgive the
injustices of the past than to allow them to take root and add
bitterness to your future.
There is always a time to forgive.
That time is always now.
Your season of bitterness is
Your season of anger and
plotting revenge is over.
Your season of chaining yourself
to this other person’s hurt or disappointment is over.
It is a new season, a fresh season, a
season is plant something new.
Do you want to forget what was
Then do what Paul did in Phillippians
3:13, “but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and
reaching forward to what lies ahead.”
Do you want to forget the past?
Then forgive; chop down that broken
tree and nurture something new and exciting.
Discover what God wants to do with
you once you’ve freed yourself from the bitterness of your past.
Live in the present and the future
and not in the past.
Seek new relationships; make new
So we have managed to fall upon God’s
mercy and grace and, by His power, we have forgiven someone.
But what does that mean?
Does that mean that we must act as
though that offense never occurred?
Must the relationship be back to
exactly the way it was before the hurtful incident?
What Forgiveness is not
Forgiveness is not necessarily
trusting that person fully or even partially.
You may share something confidential
with someone and then they blab it to others.
You can sincerely forgive that person
but that does not mean that you should be willing to share
confidential information with them again anytime soon.
Trust is earned.
You have every right to expect that
person to prove their trustworthiness before you make them your
Forgiveness is not necessarily
forgetting about the offense.
It is good to forget about it and
forgiving that person is the first step towards forgetting about it.
But forgetfulness is not a test for
When God says in Hebrews 10:17,
“And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more,”
does that mean that He forgets that they ever existed?
Does it mean that if I commit a sin
yesterday and then repent of it that God says, “What sin?”
No. It means that He forgets the debt
against us and no longer holds it against us either now or ever in
all of eternity.
But it is not wiped out of God’s
mind so that He no longer is able to remember it.
Think about the Bible.
It is full of examples of people who
sinned and then repented.
But if the Bible is truly inspired by
God, i.e., that its contents were given to men to record from God,
then how are these stories are still included?
Shouldn’t God have forgotten about
And if He forgot about them then how
could He tell people to write them down?
It is because forgiving does not
necessarily mean never remembering; it means never holding it against
that person again.
And, in a way, that is even harder.
If we are truly able to completely
forget about some offense then it isn’t so difficult to never hold
it against that person.
But if it does come to mind and we
are able to genuinely not hold that hurt against that person then we
are truly resting in the grace of God.
Of course it is good to forget but it
is not necessary to forgive.
Forgiveness is not excusing the
Excusing the sin is actually the
opposite of forgiveness because it is saying the offense really
didn’t matter, that there was nothing to forgive.
You don’t need grace to excuse; you
just need insight and understanding.
You need grace to forgive because it
was, in fact, a grievous offense.
Forgiveness is not smothering
the issue because then it will just continue to burn in our soul and
start sinking its deep roots into our hearts.
Forgiveness is not pushing the hurt
so deep that we think that we are unable to think about it.
Rather, forgiveness is truly dealing
with the offense.
It is closing the book on it; not
hiding it somewhere in the room.
Forgiveness is not accepting or
tolerating the person.
We accept people for the good that
they are; we forgive people for the bad that they do.
But why should we point this sin out
Because it will help them to overcome
the sins in their own lives that may be weighing them down.
And it may be a sin that is causing
them to have problems with other people or with God.
Love wants the other person to be
It is not necessarily being
Yes, it is good and it is the best to
be reconciled, but even if there is no reconciliation that does not
mean that forgiveness is absent.
Every effort should be made to
reconcile but sometimes that is impossible.
There may be an ex-spouse that
There may be a person who still
wants to inflict harm on you.
There may be someone who is a
But we should do what we can
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue
peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will
see the Lord.”
And Romans 12:18 says, “If
possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
Notice that this verse in Romans puts
the entire onus on you.
God does not expect a 50/50 attempt.
He expects you to make the entire
But if that reasonable effort, and
note how key the word “reasonable” is, fails then you are free
from further obligation.
We are going to look at two Bible
In each one, someone was terribly
And yet, their responses were
We are going to see how this affected
their lives, their futures and how God viewed their reactions.
Simeon and Levi
34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah,
whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the
2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor
the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with
her by force.
3 And he was deeply attracted to
Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly
4 So Shechem spoke to his father
Hamor, saying, "Get me this young girl for a wife."
5 Now Jacob heard that he had
defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in
the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in.
6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem
went out to Jacob to speak with him.
7 Now the sons of Jacob came in from
the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were
very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying
with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.
Shechem raped Dinah; a terrible act
and the sons of Jacob heard about it and were furious.
13 But Jacob's sons answered Shechem
and his father Hamor, with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had
defiled Dinah their sister.
14 And they said to them, "We
cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised,
for that would be a disgrace to us.
15 "Only on this condition will
we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of
you be circumcised,
16 then we will give our daughters
to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will
live with you and become one people.
17 "But if you will not listen
to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go."
Jacob’s sons pretended to go along with Hamor in
order to trap him and get revenge.
But notice what is missing from the sons of Jacob.
They didn’t pray or cry out to
They didn’t seek counsel or
their father’s advice.
They lied or, at least, used
They schemed together about how
to get revenge. Obviously, they did not make this story up on the
fly. They sat around and planned it out.
It’s dark out and they’re all
gathered around a campfire.
One might have said, “Let’s just
go in and kill him.”
Another, “If we do that then the
whole town will come out after us and we’ll never be able to hold
them all off.”
“Then why don’t we just go in at
night and kill everyone in town while they’re sleeping.”
“And what if one person cries out?
Then what? Then the whole town will wake up and we’ll be kapooy.”
“What we need is some way to weaken
all of the men in the town.”
There is a moment of silence while
they all rub their chins and think.
Then one of them narrows his eyes and
in a low voice says, “hmmm, I think I’ve got it.”
When we are sinned against, is our
first instinct to cry out to God.
Do we seek counsel?
Or do we lie and plot revenge?
Do we think evil thoughts towards
25 Now it came about on the third
day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and
Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city
unawares, and killed every male.
Simeon and Levi killed all of the
males and then stole what was left.
They punished even those who were
associated with the transgressors.
Lack of forgiveness sometimes knows
There is a saying, “My enemy’s
friends become my enemies.”
I can assure you that this saying is
Have you ever been hurt by someone
and then snubbed his or her’s friends?
This is wrong.
30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and
Levi, "You have brought trouble on me, by making me odious among
the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites;
and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me
and attack me and I shall be destroyed, I and my household."
Jacob erred in that he did not
reprove them for doing evil but for causing him trouble.
He had an attitude of consequences
being more important than righteousness.
31 But they said, "Should he
treat our sister as a harlot?"
They couldn’t get their eyes off of
They focused on the sin and not on
God’s grace and forgiveness.
They let another’s sin dictate
their own lives.
Shechem’s sin dominated
and their excuses.
And it was the justification for
their own sin.
How many times have you ever excused
your own sin because it was in response to someone else’s even
Sin is always wrong.
Throughout this story notice how many
times God’s name comes up.
They never took the situation to God.
They never even tried to rely on His
grace and power.
And the result was the ruin of their
own lives and the ruin of the lives of those around them including
their own family.
Now we jump ahead to when their
brother, Joseph, was the second in command in Egypt, but they didn’t
know that it was him.
Their youngest brother and Joseph’s
only full brother, Benjamin, was always left behind with Jacob when
the other ten brothers came to Egypt, but Joseph wanted them to bring
Benjamin the next time.
So to ensure this he took one of the
brother’s as hostage to be released when Benjamin appeared.
Notice who was selected.
24 And he [Joseph] turned away from
them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he
took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.
Interesting how Simeon was the one
taken and held in prison.
The one whose life was already
imprisoned by unforgiveness is now the one who was chosen to be held
in an actual prison.
Now let’s jump to the end of
Jacob’s life when he gathered all of his sons and prophesied over
Vs. 5 - 7
5 "Simeon and Levi are
brothers; Their swords are implements of violence.
6 "Let my soul not enter into
their council; Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew men, And in their self-will they
7 "Cursed be their anger, for
it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them
in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.
These are the only two brothers who
are prophesied together; all of the others are done individually.
These brothers are forever linked
because of their sin.
Some consequences of revenge and
Unforgiveness is tied to:
Two more consequences of
Now let’s look at the second
Here was a person who was also sinned
against but see how different his response was.
Vs. 18-20, 23-24
18 When they saw him from a distance
and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him
19 And they said to one another,
"Here comes this dreamer!
20 "Now then, come and let us
kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, 'A wild
beast devoured him.' Then let us see what will become of his dreams!"
23 So it came about, when Joseph
reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the
varicolored tunic that was on him;
24 and they took him and threw him
into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.
You can see here the first stage of
hurt that we discussed earlier.
Joseph was unfairly schemed against.
He was personally hurt.
And the attack went deep.
3 Then Joseph said to his brothers,
"I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?" But his brothers
could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers,
"Please come closer to me." And they came closer. And he
said, "I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
5 "And now do not be grieved or
angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me
before you to preserve life.
Joseph put God into the middle of the
He didn’t focus on the sin; he
focused on the God who can overcome all sin.
22 "Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall.
23 "The archers bitterly
attacked him, And shot at him and harassed him;
24 But his bow remained firm, And
his arms were agile, From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From
there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 From the God of your father who
helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you With blessings of
heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of
the breasts and of the womb.
26 "The blessings of your
father Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors Up to the utmost
bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his
Joseph is fruitful.
And notice how many times the word
“blessings” is used.
And what is the theme of verses
When he was attacked, God stood by
him and supported him and blessed him.
Look at the contrast:
Simeon and Levi perpetrated
violence. Joseph resisted violence.
Simeon and Levi lost the council
of God. Joseph had God helping him.
Simeon and Levi lost the glory
of God. Joseph was surrounded by the Almighty.
Simeon and Levi were cursed.
Joseph was blessed five times from the heavens above, from the
depths below, and from all around him.
Simeon and Levi were scattered;
their strength was removed. Joseph was distinguished.
Who would you rather be?
The one who fumes about your
Or the one who puts God into the
center of your hurt and forgives?
What are some thoughts or
behaviors that may keep us from forgiving?
Someone has sinned against us and we
are mad and we have been mad for quite a while.
God has commanded us to forgive.
We know how much unforgiveness is
eating us up.
We know that even though being able
to forgive is impossible in ourselves we have the Holy Spirit who
gives us the power to always do what is right.
So why do we struggle so much to
Why do we cry out to Jesus like the
father whose son was demon possessed, “I believe, help me in my
We are going to quickly look at a few
reasons as to why we might not want to forgive.
You might not want to forgive
because you are angry or frustrated.
Why might you feel anger over an
It might be because you feel
that you have just been treated wrongly and that you deserve to be
treated better than that.
It might be because you feel
that you have invested a lot of time and emotion into a relationship
and now it appears that it was all a waste of time.
It might be because you have had
your hopes and dreams shattered into millions of shards of glass.
Or sometimes it might be because
it helps you to avoid self-examination.
So now you are angry.
Something bad has happened to you and
you want to make sure that everyone knows it.
The Bible clearly speaks about anger.
Notice what it says the solution is.
Psalm 37:8, “Cease from
anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.”
Ecclesiastes 7:9, “Do
not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the
bosom of fools.”
This study doesn’t have the time to
look at anger in-depth but here is what God says.
The Bible is clear about anger—simply
stop being angry.
Of course that is easier to say than
But if you do what is right then your
attitudes will generally follow.
What are some ways of overcoming
being angry at this person?
When talking about him or her
make a point not to raise your voice.
Though it might be cathartic to
discuss what happened to a couple of your close friends, it is not
necessary to replay it over and over again either to those same
people or to anyone who happens to pass within ten feet of you.
When discussing the situation
don’t just talk about what happened and how awful it was but also
what can now be done to move ahead. I.e., you may start off negative
but always try to end positive.
Don’t talk about how you’re
always the victim and how everyone always steps all over you. If
there was anyone who fit that role it was Jesus and you never read
about Him complaining.
Yes, you’ve lost something but
are you going to fill that hole with bitterness or with something
positive? If you do nothing then the first will occur. The latter
will only happen if you use the situation to devise goals and create
means to accomplish those goals.
You might not want to forgive
because you want revenge.
You may want revenge because that
person has hurt you and now you want them to feel the same pain.
Destroy their belongings
Scheme against them in your mind
or wish ill against them
Commit physical, verbal, or
You may feel that the person hasn’t
paid enough yet to be forgiven.
But forgiveness, by its definition,
Otherwise, it’s not forgiveness;
1 Peter 2
20 For what credit is there if, when
you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if
when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it,
this finds favor with God.
21 For you have been called for this
purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example
for you to follow in His steps,
22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY
DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;
23 and while being reviled, He did
not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but
kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
24 and He Himself bore our sins in
His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to
righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
What is the key here?
Jesus did not respond in like
He trusted God to do what was
Yes, taking revenge makes you even
with that person; but passing by that revenge makes you more like
Revenge is the poorest victory in all
To kill a hornet after it has stung
you was never known to make the wound heal any faster.
There is no passion of the human
heart that promises so much and pays so little as that of revenge.
You might not want to forgive
because you enjoy playing the victim.
You may feel that the only way that
you’ll get attention is by being felt sorry for.
But have you ever tried
genuinely caring about someone else?
Have you ever thrown yourself
fully into helping those who are disabled or disadvantaged in some
Have you ever focused on
bringing joy into other people’s lives rather than your sorrows?
Maybe then you would also get
attention but this attention would be so much sweeter.
Of course, it is easier to complain
on and on and on; that takes hardly any effort at all.
It takes work to sacrifice for
But it is so much better.
You might not want to forgive
because you really don’t like that person and you want to keep it
You don’t trust that person
You don’t want to spend any
time with that person anymore.
You just don’t like that
So you continue to not forgive to
ensure that there will be no reconciliation or even approach by that
But realize that forgiveness doesn’t
necessarily mean that you must now be best pals or go on vacation
It doesn’t mean that you must now
trust that person explicitly.
It doesn’t mean that that person
must become a part of your life again.
But, yes, it does mean that you need
to be friendly to that person.
It does mean that you can wish them
And when this happens it means that
you have released them from their burden of payment and that benefits
you far more then it benefits them.
We just looked at only four reasons
for why a person might not want to forgive.
But those two words are oftentimes
the key of a struggle with unforgiveness—“not want.”
We can forgive, we may somewhat want
to forgive, but we don’t.
And, yes, it is true that a
particularly vile offense may take time.
It might not be that we don’t want
to forgive but that the wound is too new, we are still wobbling and
confused, or we just don’t know what hit us.
And this could be justified.
But as time goes on, the problem
anymore is not so much the original offense but the attitude that
If you are struggling to forgive then
perhaps you should dig deep enough to ask yourself “why not?”
That might go a long way.
Why should we forgive others?
Because God has forgiven us.
We must forgive for our own
Unforgiveness will take over our
Because God has so richly
forgiven us how could not return even a morsel of forgiveness to
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