I choose to forgive as a Christian

I choose to forgive as a Christian – Sermon given by Duke Heller

If Christianity is about anything, it is about forgiveness.

How far do we push this Christian forgiveness thing? It is great to forgive and all of that but we live in a real world, not in church.

Some people do horrible things. Kids get murdered. Women are raped. There is cheating on marriage vows with close friends. There is domestic violence and embezzlement. Results are: broken hearts, broken lives, broken bodies, broken marriages, and broken psyches.

Whether we live in the church or outside the church, we would all acknowledge that we could not live in a world without some level of forgiveness.

In the modern world when we talk about massive evil, the prototype of great evil is, of course, the Holocaust.  There was a book written about 40 years ago by Simon Wiesenthal called The Sunflower

Wiesenthal was an Austrian Jew, who was imprisoned in a Nazi Concentration Camp during WWII.  He was assigned to a work detail to do cleanup work in a field hospital near the Eastern front.  While he was working at the field hospital, a German nurse ordered Wiesenthal to follow her.

He was taken into a room where there was one lone Secret Service Nazi soldier, who was dying.  The SS soldier was a 21-year old German boy named Karl Seidel.  Karl asked the nurse to “bring him a Jew” because he was dying and he wanted to make his last confession.  He wanted to make his last confession to a Jew.

So this SS soldier was wrapped in bandages covering his face and there was Simon Wiesenthal alone with him in a room. Karl said that he was raised in a Christian family; he was raised in church.  His parents were not supporters of the Nazis, but he decided on his own to join the Nazis and specifically, at age 18, he decided to join the SS.

And then he told Wiesenthal that he joined a group of SS soldiers to round up Jews in a certain city.  300 Jews – men, women, children and infants – were gathered and driven with whips into a 3-story house which he then helped to set on fire.  Any Jews who tried to escape from the burning house, Karl and the other SS soldiers shot.

So Karl said, “Now I am dying and I wanted to confess to a Jew how sorry I am for what I’ve done and for what I’ve become.”  Here are his final words:

I am left here with my guilt.  In the last hours of my life you are here with me. I do not know who you are, I only know that you are a Jew and that is enough…I know that what I have told you is terrible.  In the long nights while I have been waiting for death, time and time again I have longed to talk about it to a Jew and beg forgiveness from him.  Only I didn’t know if there were any Jews left…I only know what I’m asking is almost too much for you, but without your answer I cannot die in peace.

Simon Wiesenthal believed the man was sincere, that he was truly sorry, but he got up and silently left the room without offering a word.  Wiesenthal himself died in 2005.  He was 96 years old and he was a great humanitarian.  But in his book, The Sunflower, he posed the question: What should I have done?  Should I have offered that young man forgiveness? 

In the second part of The Sunflower, 53 prominent thinkers – Jews, Christians, atheists, and philosophers responded to Wiesenthal’s question:  Should I have offered him forgiveness?

28 of the 53 said, “Absolutely not. You can’t offer forgiveness in this kind of situation.”  16 of the responders said, “Yes.  There is a way that forgiveness could be offered.”

9 weren’t sure.

Of the 16 who said yes, 13 of them were Christians and 3 were Buddhists.  All of the muslims and jews so NO.

You don’t need to hang on to a hurt in your life.

God can take that hurt from you. You can forget the pain in the process of Forgiveness.

Capacity choices.

I have a limited capacity. I can’t do it all. I can’t fix it all. I can’t carry it all. I can’t carry all the problems of the future.

Talk about choices of the past. Young – make mistakes, make bad choices.

Need to find a Biblical way to handle past disappointments. People will disappoint us.

I choose to forgive the past. How many things would you change? We can’t go back. God did not give us the capacity to carry the burdens of the past.

I am not able to carry the past with me.

I need the Lord to help me change my ability to accept the failures of the past.

Matt 6:14-15  I choose to forgive “ If you forgive others….BUT…..neither will your father forgive your trespasses.”

Do you get it? Need to grab this verse.

People who are REALLY SAVED forgive other people.

We need to be the most forgiving person you work with. She is not petty. He is not a score keeper….He is forgiving…You choose forgiveness.

Jesus has just said the Lord’s prayer –previous verses…. Matt 6:12, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Forgive others

Jesus was hoping that people would listen to what the prayer is really saying…Jesus was thinking about people needing to forgive.

How many people want God to forgive them more than they want to forgive others?

Forgive me my trespassing PLEASE.  God I need you to forgive me.

Need to choose to forgive others….so God will forgive me …

Forgiveness definition – (143 times in Bible)

Release person, legal context – to release them from a previous obligation.  Canceling a debt

Forgiveness is a decision. It is an act of my will.  It is a choice. Choice to release a person from an obligation that resulted when they injured me. People injure us in relationships.

What choice do you have?

God did not give you the capacity to carry the past with you.

What can you do?

You must forgive or it will tear you apart.  Be very hard to forget.

Tangible forgiveness:

You took my place in traffic. You took my friend Bill to the ballgame and not me.

You took my pencil.

Intangible forgiveness:  Harder to forgive these –

You took my right to fairness.

You took my dream as a person to have a happy marriage.

You took my confidence.

You took my dignity.

You took my safety.

You took my purity.

Forgiveness is a decision to forgive the person from an obligation when they injured me with their action.


You owe me.

I am going to make you pay by hurting you.

By hating you.

By telling others what you did to me.

By recruiting others to my side.

I am going to make you pay.

You say something unkind to me; I say unkind things about you in an email.

You blog about me; I slash your tires.

You punch me; I sue you.

You bomb my house; I bomb your country.

This is what actually ended up happening in this Lamech approach to doing life and it resulted in the massive outbreak of evil that took place in the day of Noah that God had to judge.

But it may be that Jesus is proposing a very different way of doing life than the Lamech way. Instead of escalating violence, tit for tat, back and forth, Jesus is saying, “There is a way of doing life, of not returning fire, of repeatedly forgiving, repeatedly offering pardon, and repeatedly offering restoration instead of vengeance.” 

Do you have sufficient imagination, Jesus is asking, to enter the world that I have come to introduce?  I am bringing a different kingdom. I’ve come to introduce you to a new world, a new creation.  Do you have the imagination, the space in your heart to embrace the new world that I am introducing?

What does Biblical Forgiveness look like?

Scripture: Matthew 18:15-35

If brother sins against you?

(Mt. 18:15-18)

How much must I forgive?

(Mt. 18.21-22)

How much did Jesus forgive?

(Mt. 18.23-27)

One Talent = 20 years wages – 10,000 talents = Billions

King moved with passion –v27

How much do we understand forgiveness

100 Denari = $20,000

(Mt. 18.26-31)

How much will I suffer if I don’t forgive?

(Mt. 18.32-35)

Slave said, “Have patience with me??” Debt could not be paid.

Do you understand who the King is in this parable? God is the King and we are the servants…who cannot repay God for what he has done for us. 

We are the slave…despite the fact that we have done a lot of good things and helped a lot of people…in front of a Holy God you owe a debt that can never be paid…only grace of God that keeps me from falling into pit of Hell.

I cannot pay my debt for sin. You can’t work to resolve it. I have nothing to earn God’s grace. My only chance is to ask God to pay it for me….

But God says HE will not lightly reduce the penalty for sin….Jesus came into the world to pay a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.


You don’t owe me. The debt is paid.

I am not looking for payment.  Not looking for a chance to pay you back.

I am not going to do it. I am writing it off. I can’t carry this with me.

God did not make me be able to carry the past with me.

It is crushing me. I can’t carry the weight.

I am choosing to forgive you.

Problem: I forgive on Thursday and Friday I am trying to carry the weight of what you did to me again.  AGREE

Forgiveness is a crisis and a process. First thing I have to do is realize that my unforgiveness is a sin.

If I don’t forgive “you” then God is not going to forgive “me”

I must stop reviewing it. Stop thinking through it again and again. Stop explaining it. Stop defending it. Need to have crisis…then there is the process.

Forgiveness in the process:

I won’t bring it up to the person. I won’t bring up to other people. I am not going to bring it up to myself. I am not going to remember it.

See that person on Thursday, my mind goes BAMM! Back to the offense or the hurt.

Yes I know

Forgiveness is a Crisis and a process.

Crisis— you decide

Process— you live it out.

Key sentence:

When you fail in the process, you must return to the crisis!

When you find your mind takes you back.

Return to the crisis and ask God to help you forgive.

Tell God, “I commit afresh to let it go. Please help me do that.”

Crisis Process  Crisis Process  Crisis Process…..after time you will let it go.

Rationalization for not forgiving.

Unforgiveness is cancer in your soul.

Why people don’t forgive:

Hurt is too big….I am thinking that is why I need to give it up. The bigger the hurt the more I would want to get it out.

Time will heal it….Not true…Time heals nothing!  It is not going away with time. This thing is getting worse even though you flipped a few pages on the calendar. This thing is getting really bad…getting red, ozzing. Doc – get it out. Antibiotic is not taking care of the problem.

I will forgive when she says she is sorry. People usually do not come back very often to tell you they are sorry.  Person probably is off doing that same thing to someone else because they probably don’t care if you are bothered with their action toward you…even though it hurt you.  Main reason person sins against you is because they are selfish.  When you say, “I will forgive her when she says she is sorry” will not solve the problem. No that is not coming. You will only become more bitter. Bitterness is like a hot coal in your hand, the more you hold it, the more it burns your skin.

I can’t forgive unless I can forget.Sorry you have got that backwards…because you not not forget…on your own.  You won’t forgive until you forget. Forgiveness is needed before you forget….over time God will bring you to the place that you will not be reminded of the pain the other person caused you.  You don’t need to hang on it. You will forget the pain through the crisis and process  of forgiveness.

If I forgive them they are just going to do it again. Someone has to make them pay. I agree someone does need to make them pay. That is God’s job. Romans 12:19 that it is a righteous thing with God to make them pay for your tribulation. “Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay.”  You don’t want to get between the hammer and the nail of that situation. Let God be the hammer. Let God do HIS thing and you show God that the love of Jesus has penetrated your heart….by choosing to forgive.

But Duke, “If I forgive them, they are just going to do it again.” Forgiveness does not mean you put yourself in a position to get injured again if it is avoidable.  Forgiveness does not require that you can’t say to a person, “Hey we are not going there again.” I am not going to put myself in that position again when I got hurt.

How can I protect myself. You can bring something up to the person if it will be for their own good? I have in the past got myself in a real high-pressure situation and the Lord will bring it up to my mind,you better slow down and speak more carefully. You are going to blow it here.” It is OK for me to listen to God’s leading as HE attempts to remind me of my past sin. God does not forget my past sin, HE just does not bring it up to me anymore. God treats me as if it never happened…which is what forgiveness really is.  I therefore don’t bring it up EXCEPT where it would be to their advantage. I know they don’t want to fall into the thing they did that offended me.

Biblical motivation for asking for forgiveness:

I choose forgiveness because: Benifits

Forgiveness has no limits. Forgiveness lets you to forget and go on serving the Lord. Matt 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, if he listens to you, you have gained a brother.”

“Seven times Peter, you are just wonderful to think that many.” But Jesus did not agree with Peter and said, “How about 70 times 7?” That could mean 77 times but it really means there is no limit to the times you forgive someone.

Way through what Jesus Christ did for me. I need to throw my arms around the fact that I need forgiveness….have you done that?   Starts there first

Eph 4:31 says to put all bitterness and clamor away from you, tender hearted, forgiving one another…even as God in Christ has forgiven you…

If your life has been altered by what Christ did for you…the surest demonstration of that is that you want to extend that forgiveness to other people….

How is that going for you???

Bible says that if you will not forgive others, perhaps you are not born again… Perhaps you need to rethink your commitment to Christ…

It does not happen over night but it does happen over time. If you truly have embraced what Christ did for you then you will have to forgive others.

Unforgiveness destroys relationships….how many would agree that when he started to choke him that that relationship was pretty much over?

BUT the King says, “You wicked servant”…I forgave you…could have had a great relationship…instead…King puts the guy in prison to pay the debt…you owe me so much money that you are going to prison till you pay…

Not see wife or kids again…because he did not forgive

Not see friends or relatives….because he did not forgive

Not see co-workers again….because he did not forgive

Unforgiveness is destructive to innocent people…how many people are suffering from unforgiveness in you that has nothing do to with them? But it plays into the tone of your conversation with other innocent people, plays into the impatience and your rashness…plays into your shortness…but people who have done nothing wrong are suffering because of you…. but has to do with unforgiveness in your heart toward someone that you are holding onto….

Times in my life I had to let it go and forgive:

Someone on my faculty 20 years ago…had to release him from my faculty because he could not bring himself to teach a surgery technique the way I wanted it taught for the safety of the students…..he later criticized me and to this day undermines my teaching institution.

Dr. Steven C. Restoration with father– “Forgive me for the way I feel about you.”              A dental friend of mine came to me saying that he “hated” his father because he had left their family when he was a teenager. Steve explained that he had gotten a couple Christmas gifts while in high school and then had not heard from his father since; Steve was in his 50’s now.  His dad had not seen his children and he felt so bad for them. He said it really did not bother him that much as he had shut his dad out of his mind and out of his life! I told Steve, “That is not true you have shut it out of your mouth as you have brought it up to me. I explained that his feelings were generated because he had never forgiven his father for what he had done; thus that is where the hate had come into his heart.


Daughter’s girlfriend got a divorce. Felt she could not forgive her x-husband for commiting adultery with her best friend….talk to her on the phone…suggested she pray for her x-husband…said she could not…told her you can not hold a grudge against someone if you pray for them… over a long period of time…One day she called me and explained she felt free…last night she asked God to help her forgive Jeff and she felt free…..RESULT…of praying and forgiving….Ex-husband came to her house and asked her to forgive him for what he had done to her….she said she did forgive him but he probably needed to ask God to forgive him….

She did not tell kids of adultery but edified their father to them. Felt her children needed father influence more than she needed revenge.

How did that work out – doing it God’s way?

He has spent Christmas in family house after spending the night in that home Christmas eve. He has gone on baseball trips with grandparents and ex-wife. Parents and ex-wife still get him a Christmas and birthday gift each year…

What are benefits of my daughter’s friend for forgiving her ex-husband?

Made payments of alimony on time, paid extra money for dental braces, for extra clothes.     Loaned ex-wife money when she was trying to fix up her house to sell it….Paid for children’s college education….

Because she has given him a key for her house, he comes and stays with the kids when she is gone to help protect them….

Duke’s lifeput names down on prayer list and ask God to help me forgive them….Help me God to write these names off my list…I know God does not want me to carry this hurt with them.

Unforgiveness destroys me…..

absolute opposite of what God calls us to…got to let it go….don’t have to prove you are right…  Matt 18….delivered the wicked slave to the torchers…to pay all of his debt…

Prayer: Close your eyes and think of those people you need to forgive. Faces are probably in your heart. It may be a choice you need to make and return to the crisis and then use the process to forgive them.

Is God bringing names to you?

Can you see their faces?

Maybe a family member.

Maybe it is someone you have not seen for a long time.

Forgive me for my unforgiveness. Lord, I forgive _____(name person) and name the offense_______. Lord I forgive my mom for ______. I forgive my wife for___.

I forgive my brother for ____. My sister for _____. I forgive my boss for ____.

I know that feelings may not be there now but I know that feelings will follow obedience.  Joy comes through obedience.  You Word is true. Your Word is my blueprint…Lord I choose.  Name the offense and then choose to forgive person



Make a Great Day! Dr Duke

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