Sermon Outline OnÂ Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Forgiving others is not an option for Christians! Paul in this letter to the Colossians says that we are to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. The scripture doesn’t say, ‘forgive those you wish to forgive.’ The scripture doesn’t say, ‘forgive only those who accept the forgiveness.’ The scriptures says, ‘Forgive.’
We Christians pray a prayer that commits us to forgive others. We pray ‘forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us.’ We have been taught by Jesus to pray for an equal measure of forgiveness. We ask God to forgive us only to the extent that we have forgiven others. So as long as we have no desire to by forgiven by God, we can go through life without forgiving.
John tells us in his gospel that ‘We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘˜I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother and sister, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister. 1 John 4:19-21 (NIV) How can we love someone and withhold our forgiveness?
Forgiving is not always an easy thing. When we tell some people that we forgive them, they look at us like we are crazy. They are not interested in our forgiveness. They do not see that they even need to be forgiven. So how do we forgive people who see no transgression?
Our forgiving does not depend on the other accepting or even acknowledging our forgiveness. They may not even see the need for forgiveness because they do not see that they have wounded us. While we hope that the person we forgive accepts our forgiveness, we have to remember that we are only responsible for our actions and not those of others. We cannot change the other person. We can only do what we need to do, what God calls us to do.
Charles Kraft once said, ‘There is no greater blockage to a person’s receiving healing from God than that person’s refusal to forgive others.’ Endnote For us to experience healing, for us to get better, we must forgive. The good news is the healing does not depend on the response of the one being forgiven. Forgiving others brings healing to our own hearts. Regardless of the response of the other person, the act of forgiveness can remove feelings of bitterness and anger that we harbor. As Henri Nouwen put it, ‘The only people we can really change are ourselves. Forgiving others is first and foremost healing our own hearts.’ Endnote
Stephen Seamands offers seven steps in forgiving. In one of those steps we are called to release the person who wronged us. He suggests that forgiveness cannot occur until I give up the right to blame the other person for what he/she did.
Forgiving is not easy! Often the ones who wound us are those who are closest to us. Forgiveness from the heart is difficult when the one who caused the pain is a parent, brother or sister, spouse, child, teacher or pastor. Sometimes we say that it is impossible for us to forgive and that is true. Sometimes people do things to us that make it impossible for us to forgive. While offering forgiveness seems impossible, we can remember that nothing is impossible for God. God gives us the grace to say, ‘In the name of God you are forgiven.’
So don’t ever think forgiving is easy. It may or may not bring healing and wholeness to our relationship with others, but forgiving does bring healing and wholeness to our lives.
Forgiveness is not easy. Matthew tells us, ‘Then [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ Matthew 26:27-28 (NIV) Jesus died on a cross so that we might know forgiveness. ‘Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.’