You Don’t Have to Forgive Them

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English service on January 19

Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison

Matthew 6:9-15

“You Don’t Have to Forgive Them”


Hello again, everyone with us here at Open Door Chapel in Sapporo, Japan, and those with us online.  After stepping away for the Christmas season from the message series we have been in at English worship, let’s return today to considering “Things God Never Said.”  It can help us understand God’s word at times to think, “What could God have said that He chose not to say?”  “What would I have said in this case if I were God?”  The answers to questions like these can be strikingly different from what God actually says.  And sometimes the things He does not say tell us even more than the ones He does.


Today’s message to consider is: “You don’t have to forgive them.”  Of the many things God tells His people, this is not one of them.  In fact, through Jesus’ words, He tells us very clearly that forgiveness is at the heart of our life in community with Him and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The relationships that Christians seek to build with people—especially inside but also outside the church—are to be marked by forgiveness.  That much about God’s word is clear.


“Oh, I wish He hadn’t said that!”  Do you ever find yourself feeling that way when you read through the Bible?  Or maybe you think, “He can’t mean that, can He?”  Hearing a message like this, you might be saying to yourself, “Pastor, you’re losing me here.  You don’t know the people who’ve hurt me.  You don’t know what they/he/she did.  Forgive them?  Really?  Why would I even want to do that?  And if I did, do you seriously think it’s possible in the real world to do something like that?  Do you really know how difficult it is?”


If that says something that you feel when you hear Jesus Christ tell you to forgive the people who have hurt you, I want first to recognize those as honest feelings and thoughts.  God comes to us where we are, even if it is in deep pain someone else has caused.  So we also should avoid judging and do everything we can to understand—and show understanding to—each other when troubles come between us.  Next, I confess that there may be a lot that I don’t know about your particular pain and the scars you bear because of people who have hurt you.  My hope is not that I have some great ability to understand or solve your problems.  Instead, I bring you the message of Christ about forgiveness believing that He understands and He is powerful to heal, renew, restore, and rebuild relationships damaged and even destroyed by sin.


We pray as part of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins” (v. 12).  There’s a wisdom in the custom and practice of praying this, especially in the New Year season, because we need to be cleaned, purified, made new if we are going to have the best 2020 possible for us.  Carrying the burden of our sin into 2020 from all that has happened in 2019 and before can damage us, weigh us down, keep us from moving in freedom and joy into the days ahead.  


This reality may be easier for us to see and accept.  But then Jesus continues, “. . . just as we also have forgiven those who sin against us.”  Really?  Can we honestly ask God, “Treat me the way I treat other people”?  “If I don’t do everything I can, in attitude and action, to build and keep good relationships with people, then place me outside your love, outside your acceptance, beyond your forgiveness.”  That’s the part of the Lord’s Prayer I have to pray, often, without feeling it.  I need God’s forgiveness, His grace, His mercy, and the more I look inside my own heart, the clearer it becomes that I have not earned His love.  


So there is only way I can make sense of the command to pray, “Give your kindness to us the way we have given it to others.”  That is to see that there is a whole level of prayer under this request to God.  I first have to pray, “Lord, change me into the kind of person who genuinely cares about other people enough to forgive them when they hurt me.  Grow me into that kind of person so I can actually want to be forgiven the way I forgive.” 


To take God seriously in His command to forgive, let’s approach it in our remaining time by asking a few questions and finding the Lord’s answers.  First, why would God tell us something like that?  Is He reminding us one more time of the Law and how we have to measure up to it—or face His punishment?  Or does He have something else in mind?  One thing to remember about this command is that God makes it basically because of who He is.  He is “Our Father” (v. 9).  Jesus does not pray “My Father.”  Everyone who is willing to come to God in faith and place our lives in His hands is made His son or daughter.  So the way we get along with our brothers and sisters in Christ is very important to Him.  It’s so important that Jesus gives this command (Matthew 5:23-24): 


Suppose you are offering your gift at the altar. And you remember that your brother has something against you. Leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift.


If you are a parent with children, you may understand God’s feeling here very well.  When our children were small, they would fight with each other, sometimes by hitting but usually with words that were maybe even more hurtful.  Chieko and I would just hate it when that happened!  Nothing brought us more joy than times they would have fun together, but nothing brought us more pain than times they were in their own mini-war.  


(It bothered us a lot more than it bothered them sometimes, we noticed.  They would be fighting like cats and dogs, and at the end of the day mom and dad were still feeling all stressed out, like the day was ruined.  But sometimes we’d notice the kids had already forgotten all about their troubles, moved on to something fun, and gotten over it a lot faster than we did.  They were more resilient, it seems, so we again had something to learn from children.)  


Jesus tells us to get things right with the people in our lives before taking part in worship.  Don’t wait.  In other words, His message is: don’t bring God an offering when you’re fighting with His kids.  


A second question we face in wrestling with God’s command to forgive is what forgiving actually is.  The Greek word Matthew uses (v. 12) can also be the word for throwing away or releasing.  A person who divorced his wife, for example, would do what this word describes and clearly, decisively break the connection.  


Likewise, when we forgive as God tells us to do, we make the firm choice not to let our problem with someone be the thing that we give our time and emotion and energy.  We don’t keep holding on to it.  We let it go.  We choose to say that keeping the relationship with that person is more important than the problem we believe he/she has caused.  


We do not pretend that the offense never happened or it doesn’t really matter somehow.  That is not Christian forgiveness.  We do not just decide to ignore it.  That is not Christian forgiveness.  Neither is simply forcing ourselves to smile at the people who offend us.  Gaman is not the way out that Jesus teaches.  Nor do we confuse forgiveness with rebuilding trust.  Forgiving someone does not mean going back to the same relationship you had with that person before the problem came between you.  You can’t do that; you have to rebuild it.  That is different from forgiving and usually takes some time if it is done seriously and honestly.


Forgiveness can happen whenever we choose it.  We cannot go back and erase the hurt that person has caused, and we cannot force someone to sincerely apologize for it.  But the choice to forgive is within our control.  A key part of it is giving up the right to get even with the person who hurt you.  That feeling of wanting to get revenge and settle the score can be very powerful, can’t it.  So forgiving must be a free choice if it is to be meaningful and lasting, but it is our choice to make, with God’s help.  


Forgiving, like rebuilding trust, may take time, and there may be a number of steps in the process.  In real life, for people who really do forgive, it may be necessary to forgive the same person for the same offense not only once but many, many times.  That’s because those painful memories have a way of coming back again and again and taking hold of our thoughts and feelings.  When they do, we have to make the choice to forgive again and again if forgiveness is going to be real and actually form and guide our thoughts, words, and actions.  We won’t go into detail in this message about the journey to complete forgiveness, but I recommend the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 as a good example of the process of forgiveness and reconciliation God takes people through.  


Third, how does forgiveness work?  Seeing this more clearly can help us understand why it is necessary.  Jesus seems to understand the human heart as having something like gates which we as its owners control.  If we open them to love and acceptance, we can receive it in endless supply from God and, though far less perfectly, from people.  We are then to give it to Him and others, as well.  But if we respond to being hurt by closing those gates and refusing to open them and forgive, we do not only shut ourselves off to those people.  We at the same time close ourselves off from God’s forgiving love.  On the other hand, if we choose to open the gates again and forgive, we do not only release the kindness of forgiveness, but we also again become open to receiving God’s grace.  Whichever of the two choices we make, open or closed, we cannot pick and choose between sharing love with God and sharing it with others.  They come as a set, or two parts of a whole life that is based on love.  


When you look at Christ’s teachings on forgiveness that way, you can see that they are not just commands.  Maybe even more, they are simply truths about the way life works.  In other words, they are not just prescriptive but descriptive, too.  This is just how it is in relationships with God and with people.


Fourth, and last, let’s turn our attention to who actually benefits if we forgive, and who gets hurt if we don’t.  The negative side first.  If I keep an unforgiving attitude toward some person or organization or ethnic group or class of people that I feel have hurt me in some way, most of all, as a Christian, I am making a problem for my God.  He tells me to forgive, I’m not doing it, and He’s not OK with that.  He’s tough and can handle it, but it hurts Him because He cares about this deeply.  


Next, I might do something to hurt the person or people I think have offended me.  That might or might not happen.  


But in my experience my unforgiving spirit is far likelier to do long-term damage to me than anyone else.  Keeping that inside you is like keeping poison in your body’s system.  If it’s only there at a low level, you might think you are OK.  But with the passing of time, this kind of poison may not go away but build up to dangerous levels.  It can rob you of huge amounts of time spent in an inner storm, of the ability to sleep, of the priceless gifts of peace of mind and joy for the journey of each day.  


Keeping an unforgiving attitude does nothing to help you when you have been hurt.  If anything, it will make your pain worse and keep those hurts from healing.  A pastor named Dave Willis says, “Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong—it makes you bitter.  Forgiving doesn’t make you weak—it sets you free.  To use another word picture, as someone said, wounds hurt but scars don’t.  We can’t avoid picking up some scars as we go through life, but they are signs that healing has happened.  If we keep reopening our wounds by refusing to forgive, the pain and damage are far more long-lasting.  


Working inside a Japanese junior college and university for the last 33 years, I have noticed how the lifetime employment system can make it easy for people to have long-term relationship troubles.  There are many plusses, too, so I am not trying to judge that system as a whole, but I see how easy it can be for people who stay inside the same organization for decade after decade to have challenges getting along.  When there is a division of opinions about something important that must be decided, it seems very easy for people to have in mind about their co-workers, for example, “the time 20 years ago when that person’s department blocked ours from getting the budget we wanted” or “when they stopped us from hiring the person we wanted.”  Without forgiveness, walls can easily be built between people.  


To use another illustration, if you will not forgive, your unwillingness can become a prison cell that closes you in and keeps you from living as a free human being.  That, in effect, gives the person or people who hurt you even more power over you.  And they often don’t even know it’s happening.  


By contrast, looking on the positive side, forgiveness is the key that sets you free from the prison of an unforgiving spirit.  It may or may not change the people you forgive, but it will always change you.  Choosing to forgive is choosing to agree with God.  He is merciful, gracious, and compassionate.  Even if you and I hate someone, our God does not feel that way about him or her.  He loves that person.  So freely choosing to forgive the one who has hurt us is agreeing with God.  It is a way of saying He was right in sending Jesus to die on the cross for the individual who hurt us (and all people).  Pastor Andy Stanley says it this way: “In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy.  But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another.”  


We are in the Olympic year of 2020 now, and the marathon races are coming to our city!  So let’s take a hint from the runners there.  How many of them do you think will be carrying suitcases or wearing backpacks or running with ankle weights?  I’m pretty sure the number will be zero.  They know that when the gun sounds and the race begins, they have to be free from whatever will slow them down.  Only then do they have a chance to run their best race.  


The gun that began the race of the year 2020 has already sounded, and we are now 19 days into it.  So if you are still carrying the burden of an unforgiving attitude, don’t you think now would be a good time to lay it down?  Our God calls us to do that.  In fact, He commands us.  So will you go with me to Him in prayer now and ask for His help to learn to live in the freedom of forgiveness?


Our Father, we come to you first thanking you for forgiving us of so many things.  Our sin is far worse than our ability to make up for it or even understand, but it is not greater than your ability to forgive, cleanse, and redeem.  In your amazing grace, you have made a way for us to be made new.  So help your forgiving love toward us to be the great power that enables us to pass it on to others, even when they do not treat us as we believe they should.  Help us to live in willing obedience to your word’s command (Colossians 3:13), “Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you.”  


God, make us able to see as you see, especially when we look at the people who hurt us.  You forgive them, so enable us to join you in that, remembering that love for them was part of the reason Christ went to the cross.  Free us, we ask, from the prison that our unforgiving attitudes become when we hold on to them.  In faith and an act of trust in you, we now place in your hands each one who has hurt us in the past.  We confess that you are able to judge fairly, and we are not.  You are able to restore and renew, and we are not.  So all that has happened in the past we now release and give over to you.  Through the power of your forgiving love, make us able to walk in the newness of life that you want for your children.  This is our prayer, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.




Groeschel, C. (April 1, 2019). “You Don’t Need to Forgive Them.” Life.Church. Retrieved January 13, 2020 from search_query=you+don%27t+need+to+forgive+them+groeschel

Stanley, A. (2006). It Came from Within! New York: Multnomah Publishers. Random House. Retrieved January 18, 2020 from e-shocking-truth-of-what-lurks-in-the-heart

Willis, D. (2016). The Seven Laws of Love. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson. HarperCollins. Retrieved January 18, 2020 from you-strong-it-makes-you-bitter-forgiving-doesnt-make-you-weak-it-sets-yo u-free/



“ 許す必要はありません。” 


 ここ日本の札幌のオープンドアで、またオンラインで共に参加されている皆さん、こんにちは。 英語礼拝でこれまで語ってきたメッセージのシリーズをクリスマスシーズンで離れていましたが、今日また、” 神様が(聖書の中で)言われていない事”  についてのメッセージ に戻っていきたいと思います。” 神様が語らない選択する事を神様が語るとしたら、神様は一体どんなことを語られたのでしょうか?” 、” このような場合、もしも私が神様の立場だったら、何と言ったのでしょうか?” このような疑問を考えることは、私達が、その時々の神様の言葉を理解するための助けとなります。




 今日のメッセージで考えて行きたいのは、” (彼らを)許す必要はありません。” と言うことです。神様が神様に従う者に語る多くの物事の中にこの言葉はありません。実際、イエス様の言葉を通して神様は明確に、神様との関係やキリストにある兄弟姉妹との関係において、赦すことが私達が生活する上で私達の心の中心であると仰っています。



 “ あ〜、神様がそんな事を言っていなければ良かったのに” 。皆さんが聖書を読んでいる時、そのように思われたことはありませんか? 又は、” 神様が本気でそう思うはずがないですよね?” とか。  

 このような言い方を聞くと、多分皆さんはご自分で次のように仰っていると思うのです。 ” 牧師は私の言っていることが分かっていない。私を傷つけた人々のことを知らないし、その人達が私に何をしたかも知らない。彼らを赦しなさい? 本当に? 何故私がそうしたいと思えるのでしょう? 仮に私がそのように思ったとしても、この現実の世界でそのようなことが可能であると本当に考えていますか? それがどんなに難しいことか本当に知っていますか?” 






 私達は主の祈りの一節として、” 私達の罪をお赦し下さい。” と祈ります。この祈りを習慣として行うことは知恵のあることです。特にこの新年の季節においてはそうです。何故ならば私達は、この2020年を私達にとって可能な限り最高のものとするため、汚れのないようにされ、清められ、新しくされる必要があるからです。それは、2019年に起きた全ての事から生じた罪の重荷を私達が背負ってしまい、それが私達にダメージを与え、抑圧し、未来の日々へ自由と喜びの内に進んでいく事を妨げる前に、2020年へと入って行くためです。


 この真実を理解し受け入れることは、私達には容易いことでしょう。しかしイエス様は次のように続けます。” 私達に罪を冒す者を私達が赦すごとく。” と。

本当でしょうか? 私達は正直に神様に向かって、” 私が他の人を扱うように私を扱って下さい。”、” もしも私が態度においても行動においても、人々と良い関係を築き保持しないなら、神様あなたの愛の、容認の外側に、赦しの向こう側に置いて下さい。” とお願いできますか? これが私が時に意識することなく祈っている主の祈りの一節です。



 なので、そのように祈りなさいという神様のご命令を私が理解できる唯一の方法があります。それは、” 私達が他の人々に与えたように、あなたの親切(優しさ)を私達に与えて下さい。” というものです。神様へのこのお願いにはあらゆる段階の祈りがあることが見て取れます。私はまず最初に、” 主よ、私を傷つける人々を赦すことができるほどに、他の人々を純粋に気遣えるよう私を変えて下さい。私をそのような人へと成長させて下さい。そうすれば私は、私が赦すその仕方で私も実際に赦されることを欲することができます。” このように祈らなければならないのです。




 最初の質問は、神様は何故このようなことを私達に言われたのでしょうか? です。

 神様は私達にもう一度、律法について、そして私達が律法をどのように判断しなければならないか、また、どのようにして神様の処罰に直面しなければならないかを思い起こさせようとされているのでしょうか? または、他の意図をお持ちなのでしょうか?

 このご命令について一つ覚えなければならないのは、基本的に神様は神様であるので、このようにされたということです。神様は” 私達の父” です。(9節) イエス様も” 私の父” とは言われません。誰でも信仰を持って神様の御許に進んで来て、その人生を神様の御手に置く(委ねる)人は、神様の息子、娘とされます。なので私達がキリストにある兄弟姉妹と円滑な関係を持つ(仲良くする)ことは神様にとって非常に大切な事なのです。それがとても重要なのでイエス様も次のようなご命令を与えています(マタイ5章23〜24節)    






 ( 彼女らのケンカは時、それは彼女ら自身を悩ます以上に私達を悩ませていることに私達は気付きました。彼女らは激しく(犬と猫のように)ケンカをし、その日の終わりにはママとパパはその日1日が台無しになったかのようにまだ疲れ切った気分なのです。でも時々、当人達が既にトラブルをすっかり忘れてしまい、何か楽しいことをし始めていて、私達よりもっと早く回復していることに気がついたのです。彼女らはより立ち直りが早く、私達は子供達から何かを学ばなければとまた思ったのでした。)










 赦しは私達がそれを選ぶ時に何時でも起こることができます。人によって引き起こされた痛みは戻すことはできないし消すこともできません。また、そのような人に心から謝罪をするように強いることもできません。赦しの大事な部分とは皆さんを傷つけた人への仕返しをする権利を放棄することです。復讐したい、仕返ししたいという気持ちは非常に力強いものではないでしょうか? 赦しが意味のあるもので継続するなら、それは自由な選択でなければならないのです。それは神様の力を頂いた私達の選択です。





 3番目は、赦しはどのように働くのでしょうか?ということです。 これをより明確に見て行くことは、何故赦しが必要なのかを私達が理解する助けとなります。イエス様は人の心について、私達が所有者としてコントロールできる門を持っていると理解していたように思えます。もし私達が愛と受容のためにその門を開けるなら、私達はそれらを神様から尽きることなく供給され受け取ることができ、また完全なものとは程遠いけれど、人からも受け取ることができます。私達はまた受け取ったものを神様に捧げ、また同様に人に与えることもできます。しかし、もし私達が傷つくことに反応して門を閉じ、開けること、赦すことを拒否するなら、私達は人達から自分自身を締め出すだけでなく、同時に神様の赦す愛からも自分自身を締め出すことになります。また一方、もし私達が再びその門を開けて赦すことを選ぶなら、赦すという寛容さを手放すことにならずに再び神様の恵みを受け取るために門を開くことになります。開けるか閉じるか、このどちらの選択をするとしても、神様と愛を分かち合うことと、他の人々と愛を分かち合うことを分けることができません。この二つはセットとなって付いてくるもの、または愛に基づいた生涯の二つの部分です。




  4番目、これで最後ですが、私達が赦す時に誰が実際に得をし、赦さない時には誰が傷つくのかということに関心を向けていきましょう。否定的な面を最初にします。もし私がとりわけクリスチャンとして赦さないという態度を、ある人、組織、少数民族のグループ、また私を何らかの方法で傷つけていると私が思う人々に対して取り続けるなら、私の神様に対して問題を起こしていることになります。                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          神様は私に赦すように仰います。私がそうしないなら、神様はその事に対して良しとはしません。神様は厳格なお方であって、それに対処することがおできになりますが、傷つかれるのです。それはその事について深く心配されるからです。














 私達は今オリンピックの年2020年を生きています。そしてマラソンが私達の街にやってくるのです! ランナーからヒントを得てみましょう。皆さん、どの位のランナーが走る時にスーツケースを持ち、バックパックを背負い、足首に重りを付けて走っていると思われますか? 確信を持って言いますが、その数はゼロです。スタートのピストルが鳴りレースが始まると、自分達を遅くするものが何であれ、そこから自由にならなければならないと知っているのです。彼らは自分達がベストのレースを走るチャンスを得ることだけをするのです。2020年のレースの始まりのピストルは既に鳴っていて、私達は今、19日目のところです。もし皆さんがまだ、赦さない姿勢という重荷を持ち抱えておられるのなら、今がそれを下す良い時期とは思われませんか?私達の神様はそうされるように招いておられます。実際には、命じておられるのです。ですから私と一緒に今、祈りでもって神様の御許へ行き、赦しという自由の中で生きることを学べるよう神様の助けをお願いしましょう。


 私達のお父様。まず私達は本当に多くのことを赦していただいている神様、あなたの御許に感謝し参ります。私達の罪は私達が修復する、あるいは理解する能力より遥かに悪いものです。しかしあなたの力、赦し、清め、救済よりも大きくはありません。あなたの驚くほどの恵みによって、あなたは私達が新しく作り変えられる道を用意して下さいました。私達へのあなたの赦しの愛を私達が他の人達へ、たとえその人達が私達が望むように私達を扱わなくても、手渡すことができますよう助けて下さい。私達があなたのご命令(コロサイ人への手紙3章13節) “ 主があなた方を赦されたように、あなた方も赦しなさい。” を喜んで忠実に従い生きることができますように助けて下さい。






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