This past Sunday, August 16th, I was asked to speak at our church services. It is common practice in our church to have members of our local areas give a 10-20 minute talk during our sacrament meeting on a theme chosen by the leaders of the local congregation. It is a great opportunity for us individually to be able to study the topic and share the things we learned with the congregation. I was asked to prepare a talk on “The Blessings of Forgiveness.” I want to share with you the talk I prepared and the insights and impressions I received:
The Blessings of Forgiveness
In 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 Paul shares in his epistle to the saints the theme of forgiveness. He tells the saints that they should love and forgive one another lest Satan should get an advantage over them. Forgiveness is certainly a theme that our world needs to hear about and learn about, AND more importantly, see it demonstrated in the lives of the followers of Christ. In Proverbs 19:11 it says that it is the glory of man to overlook a transgression. That sounds important, but what does this mean? Well, after thinking about it I believe that it means a person is never more like God than when he forgives someone. Forgiveness is the most godlike thing we can do. There is nothing more glorious that a person can do for another person than to forgive. God is a forgiving God, Christ is a forgiving Lord, and one who is like God and like Christ, or seeking to follow them, will be a forgiving person.
When it comes to the topic of the blessings of forgiveness, there are two different ways to look at it:
1) The blessings of Receiving forgiveness (from God, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, others)
2) The blessings of Offering forgiveness (to God, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, others)
I want to invite you to think of someone in your life that you are having a hard time forgiving. A relationship that needs repair, or could use a little TLC. And as I share some things I invite you to think about how you can apply it to your situation, and if something is said or more importantly felt that can change a heart or help in your situation, please take the time to write it down and make a commitment to doing something about it.
We have great opportunities every Sunday to come to church, especially with the sacrament, to receive instruction by the Spirit that can change our very natures and help us overcome our own weaknesses, sins, and challenges IF we are seeking that instruction AND we take some action. If we choose to just come to the meetings, partake of the sacrament and listen to the speakers and teachers with little thought of what actions to take in our own lives and go home and forget everything that was said or felt, we are missing out on some GREAT opportunities and blessings that can come from seeking the Spirit.
Benefits and Payoffs
Well, as with all choices we make, there are benefits or payoffs for choosing to doing something, or to not do it. Some of these are simply perceived benefits or payoffs, but in the eye of the beholder, they are very real benefits. When it comes to forgiving another, it is the same. Sometimes we feel the benefits or payoffs of not forgiving outweighs the benefits of actually forgiving. Now, some of you may be thinking, “what is the benefit or payoff for NOT forgiving someone? That doesn’t make sense.” But it does. If you have someone in mind that you are struggling to forgive ask yourself “Why haven’t I forgiven him or her yet? What is holding me back?” Or “Why are they having a hard time forgiving me, or forgiving so and so?” There can be lots of reasons. Some of them can be: to “be” right; or to avoid confrontation or contention; or to hold onto the idea that as long as I feel pain they ought to feel it too; or we feel that they don’t deserve it; or sometimes it is our pride… I fully admit that it can be extremely tough to overcome some of these payoffs or benefits of not forgiving, especially when we have been hurt or wronged, or betrayed once, or over an extended period of time. Think about it a little and think about your reasons for NOT forgiving.
Well, I want to focus now on the benefits and blessings of forgiveness and see if we can help “tip the scales” so to speak, to help you decide that forgiving is the best choice for you and your situation.
I did a little research on the blessings that come from choosing to forgive and came up with a very long list of blessings. These are blessings from real life experiences that people have had forgiving others, or from being forgiven. As I go through some of these “benefits” think about these benefits and what each one of them would mean to you and your relationships:
Blessings of forgiveness:
It brings you happiness,
it brings you joy,
it brings you relief,
it brings you peace,
it brings you forgiveness,
it brings you a clean conscience,
it takes a way a burden(s),
it brings a removal of guilt & operating out of shame,
forgiveness frees you from the bitter chains of pride, self-pity, vengeance that lead to despair and alienation, broken relationships, and a loss of joy,
Forgiveness frees the soul and enlightens the mind.
It is a state of experiencing God’s grace and mercy.
Forgiveness offloads laziness and replaces it with diligence.
Forgiveness erases lust and writes in love.
Forgiveness takes away the stain of selfishness and dyes it with service.
Forgiveness opens the door to the power of the atonement which has the power to remove the scars of the past.
The blessings of forgiveness are bold and they belittle sin.
I recommend reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 and see how Jesus gives us a long list of blessings that come to the obedient.
Obedience Brings Blessings…
There is a saying I have come to love and know that it is true. The first part of it is that “Obedience to God’s commandments brings blessings, and obedience is a choice. “
In D&C 64:10-11 The Lord gave us a commandment to forgive when he said: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds”. There are no disclaimers or asterisks that I am aware of when it comes to this commandment. He doesn’t say you need to forgive all men, except for that one guy who really hurt you. We are commanded to forgive all men, no matter what.
Now, I know it can be very hard at times to even want to forgive someone who has hurt us, let alone go through the process of forgiving them. The pain is so real, or so deep. It is easy to say “you ought to forgive and forget” as an outsider to a situation, but I know it is much harder to do when it is you in the situation, because there are so many circumstances, situations, and experiences where one can be spiritually, physically, or mentally hurt, or betrayed, and it can be more than just a single occurrence… it can be a lifetime of experiences. Some of us have experienced great betrayals, great financial trials, health challenges, loss, etc… because of others, or it may be God we are placing blame and having having a hard time forgiving for circumstances in our lives. It is different for each of us. Think of your situation…
Strict Obedience Brings Miracles
I want to testify that I have come to know that God is a perfect promise keeper and will give us the strength to do hard things. I know that especially when it comes to forgiveness that obedience to God’s commandment of forgiveness brings blessings, and that strict obedience to this commandment brings miracles into our lives. It brings great changes… Great miracles. I have seen many mighty miracles in recent years through the power and miracle of forgiveness. Lives and marriages have been repaired and restored where once the couples believed it was past fixing, or that it was impossible to restore, but I have not only come to believe, but I know that with God nothing is impossible. We just need to get out of His way and surrender things to Him and stop trying to fix it on our own.
If you have ever thought or felt that some relationship in your life is irreparable, or that it would be impossible to forgive or be forgiven, I know of a place where lives and relationships are changed and transformed daily. I have been blessed to attend the LDS 12 Step Addiction recovery for the past 18 months, and have witnessed first hand the mighty miracle of forgiveness, and have come to truly know that nothing is impossible WITH the Lord. I have witnessed it, and I have experienced it in my own life.
Everyone of us can benefit from going through this program, whether you are struggling with an addiction or not. The 12 Steps move us closer to God, and help us develop a relationship with our Heavenly Father that is real, deeply rooted, and personal. The 12 step manual is correlated material, which means it is the closest thing we have to scripture. A lot of thought, prayer, time, and discussion was put into making this manual the powerful resource that it is… filled with scripture and testimony on 12 gospel centered principles. It is a powerful manual on forgiveness.The addiction recovery manual was written by church leaders as well as men and women that have recovered from all kinds of addictions, that have had relationships healed that were written off, that felt they were past rescuing, and that have really come to know Christ and have experienced His mighty power in their lives and know the miraculous benefits of forgiveness. From the introduction of the manual it reads:
We have known great sorrow, but we have seen the power of the Savior turn our most devastating defeats into glorious spiritual victories. We who once lived with daily depression, anxiety, fear, and debilitating anger now experience joy and peace. We have witnessed miracles in our own lives and in the lives of others who were ensnared in addiction, and in the lives of those whose loved one struggled mightily for deliverance.
“We have paid an awful price in self-inflicted pain and suffering because of our addictions or the addictions of our loved ones. But blessings have poured forth as we have taken each step to recovery. Having had a spiritual awakening, we strive every day to improve our relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are healed.
“We invite you with all our empathy and love to join us in a glorious life of freedom and safety, encircled in the arms of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer…”
My Invitation to You
If you are having a hard time with forgiveness, or if you feel distanced from Him in any way, I invite you to attend an LDS 12 step meeting. They are very safe places, and the Spirit is very present there as men and women gather who are striving to turn their lives over to God, and are experiencing mighty changes and miracles in their lives. If for any reason, the meetings are a HUGE spiritual boost.
Finally, simply acknowledging that the blessings that come from forgiveness exists is not enough. It is like thirsting for water and acknowledging that water exists, but not drinking. We have to take the steps that lead us to receiving or giving forgiveness. I challenge you today to begin taking those steps that will enable you to be a partaker of the sweet, sweet blessings that come from forgiving others. Don’t wait. These blessings can be yours NOW.
I STAND ALL AMAZED
When I find it hard to forgive someone all I have to do is read the lyrics to the hymn, “I Stand All Amazed,” and my heart is changed. Take a minute to read these lyrics and ponder the message. Then, think about those people you want to forgive.
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
(Chorus) Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me Enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
Give yourself to The Captain of Your Soul and receive the blessings that are constantly being offered to you, and see the tender mercies He places in your life each and every day.
-From A loving brother