God wants all of us to experience a life free from the collateral damage caused by unforgiveness. Yet, so often, we resign to being tethered to anger and resentment because of what happened in our past. In this message, Pastor Ed Young unpacks the power of being unleashed and shows us how the unbelievable nature of forgiveness is just one step away!
ILLUS: A while back I was putting gas in my car, which is something that everyone does. And while I was gassing up my car, I looked and I saw a man with a giant Doberman on a leash, and he was walking across this busy intersection. And I watched this happen while I’m, again, at the gas tank. And the guy walked right near me, hooked up his Doberman to a bench that was cemented in the ground in front of the convenience store, then he walked in.
So I’m still at the car checking the Doberman out, because I love dogs, and for some reason, something startled this dog. I don’t know what happened, but the dog began to freak. And when he freaked, he bolted toward the traffic. He pulled with such force that it tore out the park bench from the cement. This giant Doberman was dragging this park bench, sparks flying, right toward the sea of traffic.
I thought to myself, “I’m going to see a collision that’s going to be absolutely epic. It’s going to be horrible!”
I was closing my eyes, but I had one eye open, and the cars were stopping, they were skidding, horns were blaring. And I watched this dog weave in and out of traffic ,slinging this park bench into the vehicles, totally destroying like three cars.
Is that amazing or what? I mean, I still can’t believe I saw it. And in fact, several days later, the paper did a story on it and I need to get a copy of it. It happened in Colleyville of all places. If you’re in Miami or southwest Florida, you’re like, “Where’s that?”
Well, I know it sounds like that old town, Hooterville. Remember the Green Acres show back in the day? How many people remember Green Acres? This is going to age you, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yup. You know my father grew up with Eb. You remember Eb, one of the characters? Yeah, Tom Lester, what a great guy. Spoke at our church many times. But, it happened in Colleyville.
So today I want to talk to you in this last session of Adult Children. I want to talk to you about something that swims against the current of every desire we have. I want to talk to you about something that is totally and completely unnatural. I want to talk to you about something that ruins lives, that wrecks marriages, that blows up companies, and schools, and sports teams. I want to talk to you about unforgiveness. Unforgiveness.
Now when I just throw that term out, you’re like, “Whoa!” Well, I think if the truth were known, if we really got down to brass tacks, I think a lot of us are like that Doberman. A lot of us are leashed up to unforgiveness. And we’re dragging, that’s right, not a park bench, but people sitting on a park bench behind us. And it’s causing major collateral damage in our lives.
Are you like that Doberman? Could it be that you’re leashed up to unforgiveness? Or whoever’s on the park bench, maybe it could be a parent. Maybe it could be a teacher. Maybe it could be a coach. Maybe it could be someone who took advantage of you. Maybe it could be someone who hurt you. Maybe your ex-spouse is on this park bench. Who are you dragging around? Who, that’s right, who, is sitting on your park bench?
I’ll have to admit to you, unleashing unforgiveness is unnatural. I don’t like it. Quite frankly, I like to say, “You know what? You hurt me. I’m going to wait and I’m going to make you pay!”
It’s so interesting, is it not? Because when we leash up to unforgiveness, not only do we drag around people, we also have these feelings of resentment, anger, animosity.
I’ve been talking about adult children. Sadly, in our culture we want children to act like adults, but then when they grow up, adults act like children. Could it be the result of maybe a divorce situation? Maybe a situation where there was some sort of addiction, abuse, dysfunction. And with that brings, I understand, a lot stuff, a lot f baggage. And we want to just say, “I don’t mind being leashed up to unforgiveness. After all, I’m going to make them pay. I’m going to sling all of them into cars. I’m going to bust their heads wide open. I’ll get them back, I’ll do it!”
But do you know what? When were leashed up to unforgiveness, we’re putting the leash in the hands of others and they control our lives.
I have to laugh at Simon Peter. You know Simon Peter in the Bible, he was just a great, great, great personality. Probably a type A, who knows sanguine. He would say one thing, “I’m going to be with you Lord, I’ve got your back.” And then hours later he’s turning on Jesus, you know, and then Jesus of course forgiving him and Simon Peter coming clean. And so he’s someone that we can identify with.
Have you ever asked a question before, I know I have, and when you asked the question maybe in a public setting, you wanted to show people how much you knew about the subject before you actually asked the question? Have you ever done that before? I have. It’s really funny, the media does it all the time. They do, they do. Well, Simon Peter waded into barracuda infested waters because he asked this question to Jesus, and this question is definitely a question from a dumb ask. Yeah, that’s right, we can make those dumb asks. A dumb ask is to ask a dumb question to impress someone, then when you hear the answer, you don’t even do what the person says who’s the expert.
So Simon Peter obviously had been betrayed, he had been hurt. And he wanted to show everybody how spiritual he was. If you have your Bibles, you want to turn to Matthew, the Gospel of Matthew 18. And here’s, this is what he says, check it out in Matthew 18:21. Simon Peter, because he’s making some serious assumptions about today’s subject matter, assumptions that I’ve made as well. Lord how many times, Simon Peter asked, how many times shall I forgive my brother…” Oh man, he’s going to show everybody how great he is. “How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
He wanted people to go, “Wow! What a man of God. Saint Peter, woo, you are something else!”
Because see, during this context, when Rabbis talked about forgiveness, they usually said, “Okay, if you forgive someone three times, that’s monster forgiveness.”
Well Simon Peter asked Jesus, “Hey, how many times should I forgive someone?” Obviously someone had messed him around. “Like, seven times?”
Well, Jesus answers the question, and we’ll get to that answer in a second. But he also tells a story. And this is a unique story, because Simon Peter made some assumptions about unforgiveness. Simon Peter thought that this whole forgiveness thing was more for the person who has offended you than the person who’s been offended. And Jesus is going to change it completely. I am kind of that way as well. I’m just wired that way, and I think you probably are as well. We think forgiveness is “Oh yeah, what that coach did to me, what that girl did to me, I mean yeah…” Jesus is going to go, “Whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, you’re making assumptions? Maybe just maybe forgiveness and dealing with unforgiveness is more for those who’ve been offended.”
And you might be saying, “Well the person sitting on this bench died five years ago.” And if you really think about it, maybe the people lined up on your park bench have kind of checked out. They don’t even realize that they’ve betrayed you, or hurt you, or knifed you in the back. Forgiveness, it’s a deep subject.
So Jesus launches into this story and this is a heavy story. It’s found in Matthew 18, and let me just give you the Cliff’s Notes of it. Jesus said there was this wealthy guy, wealthy king, and he was checking out all of his investments and he had all of the accountants and the lawyers in the room, and he was talking to them. And they were going through all of these things in this long, long meeting, and one accountant said, “Oh king, by the way, there’s one guy that owes you 10 million dollars, and we’ve not heard anything about it. We don’t know where the guy is, we’ve received no payments. 10 million dollars!”
Now 10 million is no chump change, is it? Well the king finds this guy, calls him into his office, he goes, “Okay, it’s payday, pay up man. I gave you 10 million dollars, a 10 million dollar debt you owe me. You owe me big time, pay me the money, show me the money.”
The guy looked at the king, he goes, “I ain’t got it. I mean I can get it, I promise you. But right now I don’t have it.”
Now back in the day you couldn’t file chapter seven or 11 or 13, you couldn’t have teams of lawyers to protect, no no no no no. If you owed somebody something and couldn’t pay it, they could throw you to the torturers. Man, I mean, that’s serious.
Like, “Oh, you me 10 thousand dollars?”
“I can’t pay it right now.”
“Well, to the torturers you go! You and your whole family.” It was serious back then.
Well, this king looks at this guy. Again, I’m giving you the Cliff’s Notes, and he forgives him the 10 million. He goes, “Don’t worry about it, it’s all good in the hood man. 10 million, just go ahead and debt is canceled. Debt is canceled.”
So here’s what Jesus is driving at. Jesus is driving at we actually create a debt when we mess someone around, when we hurt someone, when we betray someone, when we take advantage of someone, when we talk about someone in a negative light or rip them apart. We create a debt. And the king goes, “Debt’s canceled.”
Now put yourself in the sandals of this forgiven guy. How would you feel if you borrowed 10 million dollars from someone and you needed to pay them back, you were over due, people were chasing you down, and then you meet the guy or the person and they go, “Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy it man, just do what you do, today is your day. You’ve won the lottery, I forgive you. Debt is canceled.” I would lose my mind! I would throw a black tie invitational par-tay and you would as well. You’d be like “10 million, this dude forgave me, canceled the debt, 10 million dollars, wow! Wow!” You’d be like “Man, I’m so forgiven. I love the president, I love the king man, he’s the man!”
That’s what we would say. 10 million dollars? You know what this cat did? I mean yeah, he experienced forgiveness, but he didn’t really live it out. Intellectually yeah, and you could say practically a little bit, but he didn’t really have it in his heart, in his life. Because this forgiven servant, the 10 million dollar man said, “You know there’s this guy, and I’ve already done the math, that owes me 11 dollars. He owes me 11 dollars.” And this guy found him, started choking him, and drug him, the 10 million dollar man did, drug this guy that owed him 11 dollars, to the torturers.
And don’t you know Simon Peter was going, “Whoa, why did I ask that question?”
The king heard about it and you know what happened. Well, let me let scripture read it, because this is a tough verse here, an in your grill verse. You will not find this on any coffee mug in a Christian bookstore, I promise you that. Look at Matthew 18:32, “Then the master called the servant in, this is the 10 million dollar man, the wicked servant said, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed.” Notice that debt, see, all he owed. This is tough here now, “This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Isn’t it interesting the least invested has the most control and the most invested often times has the least control.
“I mean God, where are my feelings? I mean I have got to feel it, right? I mean, if I don’t feel it, I’m not going to release them, I’m not going to forgive them.”
You’ll clock out trying to wait for the feeling. You think Jesus felt like going to that cross? Think he felt it? What if he’d waited in the garden, “Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, I haven’t felt it yet!”
Yet in our whack culture, it’s all about feelings. No, it’s about the will. The feelings will follow, it’s about the will. So if you’re waiting to feel this whole forgiveness thing, if you’re waiting to unleash unforgiveness when your emotions all line up and you’re having a good day, it’s not going to happen. And man, this is tough. This is a tough sermon for me to hear. Cause I like to be leashed up to unforgiveness. Competitive guy, and I’ll wait, and I want to put it back in your face. I’ll show you.
Yet, when I’ve done that before, when I’ve been leashed up to unforgiveness, and I have, and I’ve waited for that time, and I have, that perfect time, and I have, the person’s gone. The person doesn’t give a flying flip. The person doesn’t care. And sadly, I rob myself of joy and freedom because of my resentment. The word resentment in scripture, we’re going to look at in a second, means “to feel again.” It means to think again, and again, and again, and again. Unleashing unforgiveness is unnatural.
But I’m here to tell you unleashing unforgiveness is unbelievable! It comes from God. It’s the essence of our faith. We have to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. If you’re a believer, you should do that. You wake up, preach the gospel to yourself. Jesus died on the cross for my sins, he did the forgiveness work, preemptive forgiveness you could argue. Of course he knew the sins we would commit, cause God’s sovereign, but he also did that before we committed them in our mentality.
Yet of course, the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are those two rivers that only meet in the mind of God. You’ll never ever, ever, explain that. Yet Jesus did the preemptive work, fully God, fully man when he died on the cross for all of the sins I would commit, you would commit, you would commit, you would commit, the sins we commit today, tomorrow, 50 years from now, unbelievable.
And again, did he feel like doing it? No, he did it because he submitted to the will of the Father and God’s will is for us to forgive. So preach the gospel to yourself. Jesus died on the cross for my sins, he rose again, and I’m just going to live that out. It’s the guts of the gospel, it’s the foundation of our faith, forgiveness, the word give is in it. I’m giving myself a gift and I’m giving others a gift.
Does your conscious flinch when you think about someone? Ooh! Maybe just maybe they’re sitting on this park bench. So finally Jesus answers the question. I have got to get to the dumb ask. He does answer the question in Matthew 18:22. Jesus answered Simon Peter, cause Simon Peter, remember thought three times was monster forgiveness, then he threw out seven like people were going to go, “Oh my gosh, hashtag humbled. You’re amazing.”
Well here’s what Jesus said. Hey Simon Peter you’re talking about seven times, like that’s super spiritual? Well try this on, look at verse 22. “I tell you not seven times, but 70 times seven.” Literally over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over.
Think about the Lord’s prayer. One of the main lines of the Lord’s prayer is when Jesus said as he taught us to pray “forgive us our debts,” Think about the story earlier. Debt, a debt is created, see that, “forgive our debts,” we pray, “forgive us our debts,” we create debts right, when we sin, when we mess up, “as we also,” is contingent upon what, “have forgiven our debtors.”
And you know what the word forgive in the original language means? It means to release. Even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re not into it, even when you don’t feel spiritual, release. And for many of us, we might have to do that every minute, every hour, every day for a while until what happens? We do feel it. Yet, we make the decision, as God’s will we do it, and here’s the great thing. Then the feelings eventually will follow.
T.S. Well what are some benefits? You might be going, “Okay, okay, Ed, all right, all right, all right, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, whatever. I’ve got people sitting on my park bench and you know, you don’t really understand.”
You know what, I don’t, I’m not you. But you don’t understand who’s sitting on my park bench either, because you’re not me. So we’re on the same level, see. So here’s some benefits I just jotted down from scripture regarding why you should, I should, unleash unforgiveness.
There’s an emotional benefit to it. Job 5:2, “Resentment,” told you I’d come to it, you know what that means, to feel again, kills a fool and envy slays the simple.”
It can mess your emotions up. On the other hand, when I release, when I go okay I’m releasing it, what happens? I engage my emotions. So often our emotions can be all whack because of the subject matter, also relationally. Ephesians 4:32, be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving just as Jesus forgave you.
Physically. I read right before I walked out. I was just looking through some notes about forgiveness, there’s a recent study, and I can give you the exact documentation, that says releasing someone will help back pain. So if you have back pain, maybe, I don’t know. I just read that. I want to be fresh, and you know, on the bleeding edge of research up here. Thank you Owen, for laughing. Physically, Proverbs 14:30, a heart at peace, peace, gives life to the body. So this is life giving.
And then Romans 12:19, “Don’t take revenge,” Ed. “Leave,” let’s say it together, room, what? “Room,” running room, and that’s an act of faith, “for God’s wrath. For it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay.’”
Who can pay back, who’s going to settle the score better, the debt better? Me or God? Aw, that’s an easy answer. So all I have to do as a follower of Christ, as I’m thinking about this park bench, as I’m thinking about all the benefits of releasing someone, I need to consider the cross, that’s the gospel. Consider the cross.
Also, I’ve got to realize that I’m a public testimony of this, I can tell you this from my life, resentment doesn’t work. It doesn’t.
Also, I will, I’m just talking about myself, I’ll need some serious forgiveness in the future. I will, maybe you don’t.
So who’s sitting on your park bench? You need to release them, let go. Maybe it could be letting go, or maybe, just maybe, you need to sit down with someone and tell them, you know what, I was wrong, will you forgive me?
Now most of us don’t know how to ask someone for forgiveness. We say, “Hey I’m sorry my emotions got the best of me.” That’s not an apology. Or, “I apologize.” Or, “If you took it the wrong way…”
That is jacked up. Here’s how you do it. “I was wrong.” Say that with me, one, two, three, all the campuses, everybody. For some, you’ve never said this before, especially for the ladies. Let’s just be honest, it’s more difficult for women to do this. I know, I know, you can get mad, but it’s just a fact. Lisa I love you, she’s going “eeyah, eeyah.”
One, two, three, say I was wrong. One, two, three, I was wrong.
Now, here’s the next line. This is very difficult. “Will you forgive me?” I was wrong, will you forgive me? That’s will you forgive me, four words. One, two, three, will you forgive me? Okay, so let’s say it, let’s put it all together, okay? I was wrong, will you forgive me?
Now if you’re sitting beside your spouse, just say that, because I’m sure there’s something that you need to deal with. So say it again, I was wrong, will you forgive me? I was wrong, Lisa. But no no no no, I didn’t say that to dis women, because I love women, we love women. I’m just saying women, I could say, yeah, they’re more emotional, and that’s good. They’re in touch with their emotions. Yeah guys, we’re just kind of there. Many times we’re not really… I don’t know what we’re doing. We have the ability to think about nothing. Guys do, and that takes something. Cause women always want to know what are you thinking? What are you thinking right now? I’m like, nothing. You ask your wife that, what are you thinking about? Oh, it’s something.
ILLUS: So I did leave you hanging about this story, one of my favorite stories I’ve ever encountered in my life. What happened? Well I’ll tell ya what happened. This dog just totally trashed all of these cars and it was a crazy thing. And because of all of the horn honking and tire screeching, the owner, the master of the dog came out of the convenience store, the gas station, chased this dog down, was calling it by name, I forgot the dog’s name. The dog stopped, and I watched the master, this dog’s master, unleash the dog from the park bench, and I watched him lead the dog to safety.
When it comes to unforgiveness our master, Jesus Christ, is chasing you down, he’s chasing me down. He’s calling us by name. If we’ll stop and turn, and allow him to unleash us from unforgiveness our lives will never ever ever be the same because unleashing unforgiveness is unnatural, but when we do it, it’s unbelievable. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]