Last week, Kathy walked us through the passages about forgiveness as a way of life for the believer. We saw that forgiving others is required of those who have been forgiven and want to live in relationship with Jesus.
Jesus made a big deal about our responsibility to forgive. And like so many other things He said, Jesus also gave us the ultimate example of forgiveness to follow.
Lest we believe that forgiveness is only a duty we perform … Jesus showed us that forgiveness is an indescribable gift that He paid for with His life. What a gift!
Understanding the gift I’ve been given through forgiveness has made a tremendous difference in the way I live in spiritual community. As one writer put it (in the book TrueFaced):
The gift of forgiveness has one purpose: to protect us from the insidious harm that comes from sin done to us.
Sin always needs forgiveness. Because of Jesus, we can forgive others rather than living bound to the effects of sin. Even so, forgiveness can be a hard gift to open sometimes. Notice with me how Jesus opened Himself up to forgive Peter.
Peter–impressive & impulsive–he was one of the first to follow Jesus as a “fisher of men” and he was one of the first to openly betray Jesus. Matthew 26 sets the scene as right after the Passover meal Jesus takes His disciples along to the Mount of Olives:
31 Then Jesus *said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 35 Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
In starting terms, Jesus predicts that Peter will fall away and will even deny Him in the hours ahead. The falling way begins as Jesus prays for strength, but Peter can’t keep his eyes open to pray with Him and falls asleep 3 times in that garden.
So when Judas leads the armed crowd of soldiers to Jesus, there’s a scuffle and Peter cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus subdues the crowd and the disciples and this scene closes with these words (vs 56): “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” And later in vs. 58 we learn that “Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.”
Peter fulfills the words of Jesus by disowning Him 3 times:
69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter had sinned against Jesus, and Jesus uses that as a way to show Peter (and all of us) the way of true forgiveness.
With remarkable patience and persistence, Jesus reappears to His disciples after His resurrection. On the third visit (John 21:1-14), He offers forgiveness to all those who had disowned Him. (Perhaps you’d like to read that on your own this week).
Then, Jesus takes special time with Peter to show us clearly what it looks like when Jesus offers the gift of forgiveness.
In a book titled TrueFaced by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John S. Lynch, I’ve found some practical steps toward forgiveness that also appear in Jesus’ interactions with Peter. The authors encourage us with this… “We need a way home. We’ve been told to get over the sin done to us, but we can’t find our way out of the shadows. We can’t seem to let go of our hurt. Then, in the middle of our misery, Jesus taps us on the shoulder and says, ‘I have something for you that cost me everything to get for you. Here, it’s a gift of my grace for you.’”
Keys of Forgiveness (in order from TrueFaced)
1 Admit something happened!
“God’s provision for our healing always begins with our recognition that someone has sinned against us.”
In relating to Peter … when did Jesus admit something happened? Not only did Jesus foretell Peter’s denial, but He also acknowledged the act as they made eye contact in the courtyard.
2 Forgive the consequences of the act done against you
How did it impact your life? If you were young and it’s still unresolved, you probably notice feelings such as shame, fear, resentment when similar things happen to you even today.
A story of abandonment was written on the pages of my life when my father walked away from our family. I recall the first time when I was 5 and with finality when I was 12. Even as an adult I can turn back to those abandoned feelings in that chapter of my growing up. During a conflict over the phone, I might feel as helpless to persuade reconciliation as I was at 5 years old. A feeling of responsibility is stirred to make everything work out, to keep the relationship intact. Having walked a healing journey, I can now recognize those as times to invite Jesus into that moment, both for the 5-year-old memory of me as well as for the 45-year-old real me. Forgiveness makes that possible, rather than being drawn into shame and hiding when relationships fail.
How did this work out with Peter and Jesus?
3 Tell God what happened to you
Pour your heart out to God in a way that seems most comfortable for you. You may prefer to write it out rather than speak it aloud. Perhaps you’ll scream or go for a long solitary walk. Whatever you choose, make sure you take the full expression of your pain directly to God first.
When do you notice Jesus taking His pain to the Father? Do you think Jesus held anything back from His Father?
4 Forgive the offender for your benefit
This is when we offer the sin and its consequences to God. All that’s happened must be settled between us and God BEFORE we move toward that person. God needs to cleanse our hearts first or we “risk moving toward our offender in bitterness, resentment, judgment, and a spirit of getting even.” That would only further the sin cycle.
Notice that Jesus initiated an act of forgiveness at the Lord’s Supper … when we practice communion we are offering ourselves to God and opening up to His forgiving work in our lives. What other ways might we do this?
5 Forgive the offender when they repent, for their sake
In the story of Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-19 notice a repentant Peter:
15 When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these [others do—with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Feed My lambs.
16 Again He said to him the second time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Shepherd (tend) My sheep.
17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with a deep, instinctive, personal affection for Me, as for a close friend]? Peter was grieved (was saddened and hurt) that He should ask him the third time, Do you love Me? And he said to Him, Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep.
18 I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, when you were young you girded yourself [put on your own belt or girdle] and you walked about wherever you pleased to go. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will put a girdle around you and carry you where you do not wish to go.
19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. And after this, He said to him, Follow Me!
John 21:15-19 (AMP)
6 Distinguish between forgiving and trusting your offender
Can we ever truly know another person’s heart the way Jesus did?Jesus asked Peter to reveal his heart toward God and Peter couldn’t go as deep as Jesus asked, so Jesus let Peter go as deep as he was able.
What can you learn from Jesus’ interaction with Peter that might help you in learning to trust again?
7 Seek reconciliation, not just conflict resolution
“Grace always invites rather than demands reconciliation. An apology may make the issue go away for the present time, but it won’t heal the relationship. Remember – that’s what forgiveness always seeks. Jesus paid with his life to bring us reconciliation. This is sacred ground.” Pg 186, TrueFaced
The bottom line for me in learning to live forgiven and forgiving is to trust Jesus. That may sound simple, but it’s not easy. When Jesus holds out the gift of forgiveness in a difficult relationship, I let go of my hold on bitterness, blame and justice and allow Jesus to set things right.
Mind if I pray for us?
Jesus, Lover-of-my-soul ~ it’s the flesh part of me that struggles to forgive. It goes against my sin nature to let go of hurt and wrongs done to me. Forgive my pride and help me learn from Your way with Peter. Set me free to love and serve others in Your Name as you did with him.
On behalf of my sisters-in-Christ reading this, bring healing and whole living in the places they are caged by fear and bitterness. Bring hope in times when they are lonely and ashamed. Bring a fresh wind of Your Spirit to blow out old patterns of living and usher in a new way of grace-full living with YOU. Oh, yes!
GOING DEEPER (for personal study)
If you want to do further study on the topic of forgiveness, take a look at Joseph’s story in Genesis 42-45, 50. What can we learn from his example?
DISCUSSION (please share your answer with all of us by leaving a reply we all can read.)
Forgiveness is a process, not an event. Which one of the 7 Keys to Forgiveness listed above is the most difficult for you to practice? Why?