Nearly everyone who has lived long enough here on this earth has been hurt by someone who was very close to them.  In fact, when someone does something bad to us it often hurts us much more if we have loved and cared for them.  If a wife divorces a husband often both partners are hurt inside.  If however they were just mere acquaintances, the pain they would have felt would have been much less.  How great a pain God must feel when he sees those he loves choose to forsake God and trample the gift of forgiveness poured out by his son Jesus!  Unfortunately the world seems to be getting increasingly wicked, increasingly cruel, and people such as you and me are often the victims of the outright evil behavior of others.  Acquaintances who are mad at us we can handle, but what about church members and family members?  How should we treat those who have hurt us in the past?  What does God desire you to do today?  Let us study the Bible to find the answer to this important topic.

But before we do so let us pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, today we have fair questions regarding your words and regarding life.  Please give us your answers from your word the Bible.  May we have an open heart and mind and may you be with us and speak to us today.  Send your Holy Spirit to guide us in our understanding and decisions.  Give us your strength to forgive and love others just as your son Jesus has done for us.  We humbly ask and pray all these things in the name of your son Jesus, amen.

How should we treat others?  What about church members or family members who have hurt us?  Almost two thousand years ago, one of the apostles of Jesus named John wrote the following texts…

1 John 2:1 – My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 2:18 – Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 4:4 – You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

2 John 1:1 – The Elder,  To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth,

Did you notice the common word?  John keeps calling church members “little children”.   Was John saying “you little children, I’m a grown up in Jesus but you are just babies”?  No, but why use the word little children to refer to church members?  Why not use the word, to the teenagers in Christ, or to the saints, or to my brothers and sisters? Why use the word “little children”?  Perhaps you are reading this and you are a parent.  Would you allow someone to steal from your children?  Would you allow someone to deceive your children?  Would you allow someone to teach your child false doctrines so they lose their salvation?  What if a thief comes with a knife and says “give me your child”.  Would you fight?  I know I would fight and risk my life for my child!

This is what John is saying when he calls his fellow church members little children.  He is saying “I will fight for you, protect you, I do not want you to be deceived, I care about you so much like you are my own children.”

Do we love our fellow church members, all of them, like our own children?

The reality is sometimes people even have enemies in the church.  Often if someone is offended in church they may either

–         Stop going to church

–         Go to a different church

–        Or stop talking to that person and avoid them

Is this the response that Jesus wants us to have?  Should the sacrifice of Jesus impact how we treat others? Think about it, how many sins has Jesus forgiven you of?  Now your brother or sister in Christ has sinned against you maybe once, twice, 70 times and you are unwilling to forgive?  The reality is, sometimes people will offend us.  But we must forgive.  Colossians 3:12-13 says

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do

We must forgive just as Jesus forgave us.  And surely Jesus has forgiven not just the easy sins to forgive but all our sins, even the worst ones!  The real question is, after forgiving someone how should we look at them?  Should we consider them a friend or a stranger?    Have you every been shopping and you see a little child and it puts a smile on your face?  Babies are so cute I know that when I walk around a market and I see a baby I usually smile, perhaps you have had the same experience.   Have you every been shopping and you see a guy and he has like 30 tattoos, he has a big scary looking biker beard and when you see him it immediately put that same smile on your face?  I literally had this experience at a Wal-Mart and I saw the baby first and I had a big smile on my face and then I saw this biker and my smile slowly faded away.   It made me think, how does Jesus look at us?  Do we look to him like a pure cute lovable child even though we have sinned in the past?  The Bible gives us the answer in 1 John 3:1. It says….

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

If we follow Jesus we are His children.  He loves us as a Father loves his child, no matter our age.  But let’s not miss the first part of this verse..

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

Since God has so graciously granted us mercy and love we must therefore forgive each other exactly the same way.  Is there someone that you are holding a grudge against?  Perhaps even someone in the church?  If so then I invite you right now to ask God to give you a new heart, a heart like Jesus.  We might not want to forgive others, our heart may be as hard as a rock, but we know that God’s desire is for us to forgive.   Does God really understand how much a person has hurt us?  The answer is yes.  But to forgive may seem impossible, we would need a heart transplant!  Beloved I have good news, that is exactly what God promises to do if we are willing.  It is written…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27

Would you like to let go of the pain you have been holding? My friend, let it go.  It is not worth losing heaven. Ask the LORD to give you a new heart.  I would like to invite you to do so now through prayer.  Below is a prayer that you can say.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Lord you know the pain that someone has put me through, and looking at my life and all my sins in the past I know that I have put you through much worse.  It seems impossible for me to forgive this person, but you promised that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I ask you today, create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Place your desires and your love in my heart, remove my heart of stone.  I claim your promises now, I trust in you and ask you to help me.  Thank you for doing so and hearing my prayer.  Thank you for forgiveness of my sins and help me to be more like your Son Jesus each day I ask and pray in Jesus name, amen.

Friend, if you prayed that prayer know that this is not the end but only the beginning of a new life.  Let us continue to draw near to Jesus each day through prayer, Bible study and obedience to His will.  And let us never forget that Jesus is the truth that shall set you free.   May God bless you as you choose to follow Him!

For an even deeper and broader study on the topic of forgiveness you may listen to the audio sermon “The fruit of the Spirit is patience”.