APC 8th July 2020 “Love keeps no record of wrongs”
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek Worship. Today we continue our series on the most essential characteristic of the Christian life – that of course, is Love. Jesus says it’s by the way we love others that will show the world that we really are God’s children. St Paul reminds us that if we fail to love we will leave no lasting impression on the lives of those around us. On Sunday we reflected on the reality that ‘love is not selfish’. Today we will discover that true love ‘keeps no record of wrongs’. But to begin, let’s take a moment to talk to God, let’s pray…
Almighty and all loving God, in awe and reverence we come to worship you – to proclaim your greatness, to acknowledge your power, to recognise your sovereignty, to declare your goodness.
Lord of all, hear our prayer.
Compassionate and caring God, with grateful hearts we come to praise you – for your love that constantly surrounds us, for all the blessings of our lives, for the wonder of our world, for the hope of our faith in Christ.
Lord of all, hear our prayer.
Merciful and forgiving God, in sorrow and shame we come before you – to confess our unworthiness and your goodness, to confess we have not loved you or one another as we should, to confess we have failed to appreciate your many gifts and often disregarded your guidelines for living.
Lord of all, hear our prayer.
Living and life-giving God, in faith and trust we come to petition you – to pray for ourselves, for one another and for our world; to bring the concerns of daily life before you; to lift our loved ones into your presence, to commit the affairs of the world into your hand.
Lord of all, hear our prayer.
Lord of all, we offer you this time of worship – our praise, our thanks, our confession, our petition.
Lord of all, hear our prayer.
Respond to us we pray- touch our hearts with your living presence and fill our lives with your grace, so that our love for you may grow, our faith be deepened, and our love and service to others be strengthened.
Lord of all, hear our prayer.
In the name of Christ, Amen…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
1 Corinthians 13 v 4-8 The Nature of God’s Love
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Matthew 18 v 21-35 The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Reflection “Love keeps no record of wrongs”
I want to begin this morning’s sermon by telling you two stories. The first is the reading of a will by a lawyer in the presence of all those mentioned within it…
A lawyer was reading out the will of a rich man to the people mentioned in the will: "To you, my loving wife Rose, who stood by me in rough times, as well as good, I leave the house and $2 million." The lawyer continued, "To you my daughter Jessica, who looked after me in sickness and kept the
business going, I leave the yacht, the business and $1 million." The lawyer concluded, "And, to my cousin Dan, who hated me, argued with me, and thought that I would never mention him in my will - well you are wrong……………….Hi Dan!"
The second story is a letter written by one man to his neighbour after many years of a difficult relationship….
“Dear Frank. We've been neighbors for six tumultuous years. When you borrowed my power washer, you returned it in pieces. When I was sick, you blasted rap music. And when your dog went to the bathroom all over my lawn, you just laughed. I could go on, but I'm certainly not one to hold grudges. So I am writing this letter to tell you that your house is on fire. Cordially, Bob”
It’s good to laugh at stories like these but behind the smile/humor is the sad reality that all of us are tempted to hold grudges. For all of us, unfortunately, because accidents happen, because people are not perfect, including ourselves, things will happen and we will be deeply hurt. At these times, we will be faced with a choice. We can choose to ask God to somehow help us to let go, to forgive, or we can choose to try and get our own back on the people who have hurt us. This might mean talking about them badly to as many people as will listen. It could involve ignoring them completely, or continually reminding them of what they did or didn’t do so that they feel guilty. All of which will keep the replay button of what happened permanently switched on in our hearts and minds. Our grudge may even be with God Himself- gradually eroding our desire to pray, read the scriptures or get involved in church.
Hundreds of years ago, the Christian missionary Paul, wrote a letter to the members of a church situated in the cosmopolitan city of Corinth. Like any family, club, school, sports team or business, where people work at close quarters with each other, the members of this church had hurt one another. They had formed little cliques or factions based on who their favorite preacher was. Others thought that the spiritual gifts they possessed were more important than anyone else and they weren’t afraid to say so. Some wanted to be seen and heard and their ideas to be promoted no matter how others felt, and no matter what effect it had on their worship services. Many were extremely selfish, even to the point that they refused to share their family picnic with the poor members of the church who had nothing to contribute to the community lunches at which they celebrated Holy Communion. People were hurting, relationships were strained, the unity, public witness and future existence of the church were under threat. In this case, as in all cases, the hurts and grudges that existed in people’s hearts were no laughing matter.
So, as any good pastor would, Paul writes to this group of people whom he deeply loves with the following advice – “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
The word Paul uses for “keeps no record” is the Greek word ‘logizeshthai’. It is an accounting word describing the process of entering an item into a ledger so that it will never be forgotten. Interestingly, Paul uses the same word to describe how God ‘imputes’ or puts a record of the righteousness of Christ down to our credit when we repent and believe. In the moment that we cry out to God for forgiveness and we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, God writes “Paid in full” into our debit book in heaven.
So what Paul is saying is “If you call yourselves Christians, if you claim to understand that God in Christ has forgiven you for all the wrong things you have said and done even though you don’t deserve it, then you are to love others the way God loves you. That means you are to keep no record of wrongs. You are to forgive. You are to let go and not hold grudges. You are to leave your reputation and your vindication to God.”
But why does Paul say this and what about serious cases where even if theologically and intellectually we can agree with Pauls’ advice, in practical and emotional terms, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible to forgive?
Well, as we’ve already mentioned, Paul says we are to ‘keep no record of wrongs’ because when we love like this we reflect the image of God for the world to see. When we seek to forgive as God has forgiven us, the amazing, unbelievable, transforming grace of God shines brightly in the darkness of our world. For the message of society is very often the opposite of the Jesus’ way. Society says, “Get even, stand up for your rights, make sure they get what they deserve and they ought to feel guilty and be continually reminded of what they have done wrong.” While the there may be an element of justice underlying some of these attitudes, the problem is that there is no mention of forgiveness, no concept of mercy and grace. Justice without mercy cannot bring true reconciliation or peace.
When we act like the world and hold grudges, not only is the image of God hidden from people’s view, but ultimately the person who gets hurt the most is us, not the person who has wronged us!
God loves us, he cares about our emotional and physical well-being. That’s also why He tells us to forgive. You see it’s the enemy of God who tries to convince us that if we can get our own back we will feel better. He persuades us that if we can think negative thoughts about the person who has hurt us, if we can ruin their reputation the way that they have ruined ours, and if we can make them feel guilty by reminding them of what they said or by just ignoring them altogether, our hurt and our pain will begin to ease.
The problem is, as many people have discovered, exactly the opposite is true. When we keep reminding ourselves of wrongs. When we refuse to forgive, when we try to vindicate ourselves rather than leaving that to God, we start to become infected with bitterness and hatred. This can lead to making us deeply unhappy, angry, anxious, fearful and lead to physical effects such as insomnia, high blood pressure, aches and pains.
God calls us to forgive, not so the person who has hurt us can escape justice, but so that we can experience the ‘shalom’, the deep emotional and physical peace that He desires for us. The truth is when we choose to hold on to our hurts we suffer, but when we choose to let go and to forgive we are set free. We must learn to leave justice and vindication to the courts and to God. Even when the hurts we have received have been unbelievably traumatic, even when the loss that we have suffered can never be replaced, nothing is impossible with God. There are countless stories of situations where it would seem impossible to forgive, where people have cried out to God and asked Him for the grace and the help to somehow let go and God has answered in miraculous ways. What God has done for many others, He can do for you and me. He does not expect us to forget, but He can and will give us the grace to forgive and open the door to us finding inner peace.
The last thing I want to say about the importance of not keeping a record of wrongs concerns love for ourselves. One of the hardest things for many people is not forgiving other people- it is forgiving themselves for what they have done or for some major failure in their lives. Even though they may have been reconciled to others and confessed to God, they still can’t manage to escape the guilt they feel and the devil’s whisper in their ear – “You’re no good, you’ve let everybody down, what use are you to anyone going forward!”
Jesus knew this is how Peter must have felt. When Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death Peter was not only shocked and confused, He was afraid for his own life. So when questioned about his involvement with this insurrectionist, he lied 3 times saying that he had never even met Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, Peter thought it was all over. He never even got a chance to say ‘sorry’. He went back to the only thing he knew- fishing. Jesus loved Peter. He wanted Peter to know not only that He was alive, but also that He had forgiven Him, that He valued Him and had work for him to do. So he advised Peter and his fishing crew from the beach where to cast their nets. When they caught so many fish, they realised it was the Master. Having hauled in the nets and rowed to shore they ran to meet him. He barbequed some of the fish they had caught for breakfast. Then as they were eating, he took the opportunity to restore Peter emotionally and to set him back on the path of ministry… Three times he asked him, “Peter do you love me?” Three times Peter replied, “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” On the third answer Jesus commissioned him again for his life’s work, “Then I want you to be a pastor. I want you to feed my lambs and my sheep.”
Listen, maybe you’re listening today and you’re like Peter. Maybe you’ve made some ghastly mistake at some point in your life and you’ve never got over it. I want to say to you this morning, God loves you! He forgives you! You are valuable to Him and He has a purpose for you that will bring you great satisfaction and that will also be of benefit to many others. Do not listen to that negative voice in your mind anymore. Listen to Jesus and ask Him to touch you in a deeply spiritual way that will heal your emotions and give you the confidence to live again! You know, they say that those who never make mistakes, never make anything! Isaiah also says that “God will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten!”
“Love keeps no record of wrongs!” and that includes forgiving yourself.
I want to end my reflection this morning by playing you a song.
The song is about Renee, who lost her daughter Megan in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, a 24-year-old named Eric who was by all accounts a great young man, but made a tragic mistake. Renee experienced years of hatred, and bitterness, until she eventually learned how to forgive the young man who took her beloved daughter's life. In a miraculous way, after Megan's death in 2001, Renee began giving presentations, and in time, God put it on her heart to forgive this man and reach out to him in prison. She learned that until she was set free of the anger and bitterness she held towards Eric, she was going to be the prisoner even though he was the one behind bars.
As a result, Eric found his own personal faith in Christ and they developed a unique friendship to the point where she feels like she gained a son, and she even went to the courts to cut Eric's sentence in half. He made a terrible mistake taking the life of two young girls, and yet he's been forgiven. Renee told Eric that she serves a God who commands her to forgive and she needed to be set free as much for herself as for him. After Eric left prison in November 2012, he stood by Renee's side at her presentations to groups about forgiveness. Renee's story is life-defining as we all need to think about how forgiveness can set us free.
The song is written by Matthew West and is called, “Forgiveness”
Thank you for your gift of forgiveness. Your only Son loved us enough to come to earth and experience the worst pain imaginable so we could be forgiven. Your mercy flows to us in spite of our faults and failures. Your Word says for us to “clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony”. Help us demonstrate unconditional love today, even to those who hurt us.
Gracious Lord Jesus, thank You for the power of forgiveness. Today we choose to forgive everyone who has hurt us. Help us set them free and release them to You. Help us bless those who have hurt us. Help us walk in righteousness, peace, and joy, demonstrating Your life here on earth. We choose to be kind and compassionate, forgiving others, just as You forgave us.
Comforting Spirit, today we ask forgiveness of all the negative and harmful words we have spoken about ourselves. We do not want to punish ourselves in such a way again. Transform our thoughts and let us understand how marvelously you have made us. Change our habits so we use our tongues to speak hope and favour upon our lives. In Jesus' name.
God, what we pray for ourselves we also pray for all others. Please give all people who have been deeply hurt and are finding it hard to forgive, your grace and mercy and power to let go. Help them to find freedom from their bitterness, anger and hatred. We pray too for people who, for whatever reasons, find it very difficult to forgive themselves or who can’t understand how you could possibly forgive them because they don’t deserve it. Lord again we pray that these people will find release from these chains. May they know that you value them, that you forgive them and that you have a purpose for them in life and that they can make a great contribution to the lives of others.
Lord help us to really understand the gospel about Jesus and help us to believe it.
Take a few moments to bring your own prayers to God…
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. Don’t forget we are planning to reopen our church on Sunday 26th July. We will be sending all of you a letter by email before the end of this week to let you know our plans, to enable you to sign our Covid 19 policy, and to give you plenty of time to prepare for what will be a wonderful opportunity to meet together again for worship. If after reading the letter you have any further questions, then please do feel free to give me a call.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection on the nature of Christian love. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next few days asking the Lord to show you the areas of your life where you are struggling to forgive others or to forgive yourself. I hope you’ll join me again on Sunday as we reflect on another characteristic of true love. In the meantime, let me lead you in a benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
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 one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
And May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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