Serving the community since 1970

Pastor's Corner - April 18, 2019

Special Easter message:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,

Your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the

attribute of the strong.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

I heard a speaker say one time that the worst thing a person can do when starting a speech, sermon or an article such as this is to begin with an apology. But here goes.

You will please forgive me as I share on the subject of forgiveness. You see, I have had a very full week, with this subject taking center stage on each turn. And then on top of that we are at the beginning of Christ’s “Passion week” that culminated in the ultimate act of forgiveness.

I’ll spare you the gory details, only to say I have experienced it first-hand, in a group presentation concerning the hideous crime of human trafficking, and then a climatic viewing of the movie “Unbroken: Pathway to Redemption.” If you haven’t seen this movie or the original, simply entitled “Unbroken,” let me fervently recommend them to you.

This concept, the one of forgiveness or lack thereof, is not a new challenge to mankind. It has been forever in the forefront for all of us as we wrestle with the test of its emotions throughout our lifetimes. Many times, we have heard it said or have even uttered the words, “I’ll forgive you, but I will never forget!!” That statement is a two-edged sword that tests and tries our humanness of every side, doesn’t it?

We know we should forgive and truly want to, but that conniving memory of ours keeps reminding us of the wrong that has been thrust upon us. And if we give it place and emotionalize those feelings, we are never truly freed from the clutches of its many tentacles.

May I shed some light on this matter by saying “You will never forget.” But then how do we truly forgive? Glad you asked. When God says He forgives and forgets, what is He saying? As the omniscient God, can He truly forget? I say “no,” as God He cannot forget anything; however, what He is saying is that He will no longer hold it in our account. He simply credits it to the account of Christ in our justification.

To forgive and to forget means then to “no longer hold it in the other persons account.” You see, we all keep accounts concerning wrongs or perceived wrongs done against us. That account can get mighty full and burdensome if there are never any conscious withdrawals. I read it said, “When a deep injury is done to us, we never recover until we forgive.” Add an addendum to that statement: “by emptying their account.”

It might help to remember this little thought: “Unforgiveness (like any negative emotion) is an acid that does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored (you) than on the victim on whom it is poured.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had this topic in mind when he was quoted saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

As believers in the finished work of Christ’s Calvary, and as we approach Easter, why not open the cage door of unforgiveness and release the person or persons who have hurt you the most, freeing them of the bitterness and malice that you have been harboring for way too long and granting them the “pardon of withdrawal.” Set them free and not only watch but personally experience the liquid love of forgiveness wash over the both of you.

Yes, it has been aptly stated so many years ago, “To err is human and to forgive divine.” Why not have the greatest Easter season you can possibly have by setting the captives free?

Jim Neal is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter.


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