Forgive One Another
Many years ago, as a young pastor, serving a small but growing church, I preached a three-part series of Sunday sermons on the topic of forgiveness. At the end of the service on the second Sunday of the series, a woman approached me at the door, with her husband at her side. Like many others leaving the building, she reached out and gave me hug, during which she whispered in my ear, “One more sermon like that and we’re out of here.” She then smiled at me and began to walk toward the parking lot.
To say that I was stunned, is an understatement! Apparently, my message had hit a nerve. And during the seven days between parts two and three of my sermon series, I died a hundred deaths.
I was a young pastor, the church was new, small but growing. This woman and her husband were people of means. In fact, there were some Sunday’s that their check in the offering plate accounted for the majority of the money collected.
My mind was in a whirl over the next week. I still had one third of my sermon series left to preach. What was I to do? I was the only one who had heard what she had whispered in my ear. I could tactfully shift gears and bring the series to a gentle ending, an ending that would make her happy and not cost the church people and funds which we desperately needed.
I knew that the Holy Spirit was the one convicting her heart. Apparently, there was someone who was guilty of a transgression against her, and she was unwilling to forgive them. But He was also convicting me, would I compromise the message that He had given me to proclaim, or would I tuck my tail between my legs and cower in fear of losing this family.
The next Sunday came, I went to the pulpit and finished the sermon series on forgiveness, just as God had laid it upon my heart. And, true to her word, her and her husband never entered our door of our church again.
The second chapter in my book The One Another Project, deals with the topic of forgiveness. Like the first chapter on love, the one on forgiveness carries with it a caveat, forgive one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32). The scripture then goes on to tell us that if we do not forgive one another from the heart that Jesus will turn us over to the torturers (Matthew 18:21-35). Many are the torturing affects of unforgiveness. These things not only affect the one who is unwilling to forgive but often infect even those around them, mainly family and friends.
I end that chapter with the following quote, “When I forgive a captive is set free, the surprising thing is that the captive is me.” Today, if you are carrying anything, any bitterness or unforgiveness against another, follow the call of Jesus to forgive so that you may be set free.