The Bridge To Somewhere
April 7, 2013
Every relationship encounters difficult times. We all face moments of trouble, times of disappointment when we are hurt and bitter. In those moments, there’s a choice to be made.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young shows us the power of the choice to forgive or not to forgive. And by looking at an in-your-face biblical illustration, we discover the reality that forgiveness is really a bridge to take us to new levels in our relationships.
Illus: Several years ago, when I used to share duties and responsibilities carting our kids from our home to school, we had some very interesting rides. You know, parents, you can kinda feel me. When you take your kids to school things happen. You hear a lot of stuff. And also you hear a bunch of drama and trauma. You’ve got fights going on, conflicts going on. Yes, Lisa and I have four that are now pretty much all adults, but back in the day when I would take them to school, I’m telling you we would get in the car and it would be ON! Like Donkey Kong, man! I like that, on like Donkey Kong. Fighting, conflict, sometimes tears, sometimes fists would fly. Bridges would get burned and all of these harsh words.
And I would say, “Whoa! I’ve had enough! Be quiet!” Because I’ve got a loud voice. “Enough! Come on! Hey, let’s apologize to one another. This is ridiculous!”
“Yeah, but I…”
“Well, I’m sorry,” one would say, “if I hurt your feelings.”
Whoa. What kind of apology is that? That sounds like some actor or actress, it sounds like some professional athlete or some lawyer. “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings”? When you say that, that’s not an apology. You’re telling the other person, “You’re an emotional basket case.”
I said, “Own it! Say, ‘I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?’”
Inevitably the words would come out of their mouths even though they didn’t really feel it they would say it.
Usually this would happen on a bridge over a dam in a local lake. I started calling the bridge the Dam Bridge of Forgiveness. That dam bridge of forgiveness. That’s where the burned bridges would be rebuilt. That’s where the words would be said. That’s where they would listen to what I was saying, their father, and we would all travel over the Dam Bridge of Forgiveness.
Could it be that some here need to travel over the Bridge of Forgiveness? Could it be that someone has burned you, betrayed you, torched you, or taken advantage of you?
When I talk about forgiveness, when I talk about the bridge, what do you think about? What person, what face comes to mind? Maybe a parent, maybe an uncle, a former friend, business partner, coach, teacher, manager… who comes to mind?
You might be saying, “Well Ed, this person’s dead. They died years ago.”
I ask you, who in here needs to travel across the bridge of forgiveness? You got that person? I think we all have.
Last week I launched a series on Easter called Bridges. We basically said that God has built a bridge from his side, the divine side, to the human side. We summarized all major world religions, which are basically colossal human construction projects, that start from man’s side and try to bridge the gap to the divine side, and we all understood that that is a formula for frustrate. It doesn’t work. You never know where you will go if you’re following the human construction plan.
Then, we discovered that biblical Christianity is different than all the other world religions because God has built the bridge. The cross is the bridge, thus we have a bridge to cross. The bridge was built by God’s mercy and grace, by sending Jesus to live righteously, to die sacrificially, to rise bodily. He built the bridge, thus he has done all the work except to give you and me the opportunity, the choice, to cross the bridge or not.
And you saw it earlier. We had scores and scores of people to cross the bridge, to ditch the human construction plan, to cross the bridge. Because the bridge is a cross and we cross the bridge. So as we cross the bridge, many here and all of our environments crossed the bridge. Maybe you’ve crossed the bridge in the past; you’ve made this decision to receive Christ into your life. You know he is the bridge. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
T.S. Once you cross the bridge, we found out, God does something supernatural, mysterious in all of our lives. He gives us the nature of a bridge-builder. The bridge, the ultimate bridge, has been built to us. Now we find ourselves building bridges to people who have burned us and betrayed us, torched us and taken advantage of us.
Maybe you’re thinking about that pyromaniac that messed you around. Maybe you’d say, “Ed, I’ve got third-degree burns.” Maybe you’re saying, “My bridge is in a heap. It’s just burned to a crisp. You don’t realize what this person has done to me. I can’t even speak about it.”
I don’t know. We’re called, though, to build bridges of forgiveness. We’re called to travel over the Dam Bridge of Forgiveness, to obey our Father’s voice, to travel over the bridge, to allow the waters that have been dammed up to flow. We’re called to do that, right? And if we do that, wow. That’s a game-changer, a life-changer.
Obviously Simon Peter was dealing with the Dam Bridge of Forgiveness. How do we know that? Because as you read the Scriptures you see the tenor and tone of a question he lobbed at Jesus. What is so interesting about this question Simon Peter in Matthew 18 asked Jesus was the fact that this was a pride-driven question.
Have you ever asked a pride-driven question? In other words, you ask a question and within the context of the question you’re showing everybody how smart, how big, how beautiful, how bad what you’ve accomplished is. It’s kind of a prideful thing. You’ve seen that before. You’ve been in class and you’re like, what’s she doing asking that question? She’s just bragging. What’s he doing saying that? He’s just saying that to hear himself talk. Why am I saying that? I’m doing the same thing myself? That’s what Simon Peter did.
In Matthew 18:21-22 he said, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Again, someone had burned and betrayed him. Again, someone had torched him and taken advantage of him. And Simon Peter wanted to know about this bridge of forgiveness. But see, he had to throw in the “seven times,” because back in the day rabbis taught that if you forgave someone three times that was like forgiveness 2.0. That’s like monster forgiveness. And here’s Simon Peter, this spiritual stud, goes, “Hey, Jesus. How often should I forgive somebody. Like seven times?” <whispering> Oooh! Aaaah! Man, Simon Peter you’re the man! You’re awesome! You’re incredible!
Jesus came back and check out what he said. He answered him (in Matthew 18:22), “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.”
Do the math, big boy, 490 times! Do the math, big boy! You keep forgiving and forgiving and forgiving and forgiving! Because you’ve been greatly forgiven.
This is classic. You might want to jot this down. Simon Peter jumped to a crazy conclusion about forgiveness, a conclusion that I’ve jumped to before, a conclusion that many here jump to. He assumes that forgiveness is more for the offender than the offended. It’s more for the burner than the burned.
It’s not. I said, it’s not. It’s more for those who have been torched. It’s more for the victim than the vandal. That’s forgiveness. That’s the real F-word. That’s the bridge of forgiveness.
So Simon Peter was fuzzy about it. Fuzzy about forgiveness, probably because his bridge was in a smoldering heap. He couldn’t straight because of the smoke, to continue the analogy, so he just didn’t get it. And now Jesus launches into this story. It’s a very interesting story. This story has some serious depth to it.
Matthew 18: 26 and following is where I will end up. Forgiveness is more for the offended than the offender. He didn’t get it, so Jesus tells a story.
There was this king and this king was the king of bling. And he was going through all of his financial records and he discovered that this servant owed him $10 million. That’s no chump change. That’s like NBA money. So he brings the guy in and the king goes, “It’s payday. You owe me. I’ve leant the money to you. You’re in dept $10 million. I need the money.”
And the servant was like, “I can’t pay you now! I can’t pay you now! But I’m good for it, I promise you. I’m good for it! I will work for it but please, please don’t hurt me!”
Back in the day you couldn’t file for Chapter 11 or Chapter 13; back in the day if you had a debt you couldn’t pay, they would throw you and your family (they could) to the torturers, on the trading blocks to sell you into slavery. It ain’t like it is today.
So he began to beg, “Please! Please! I promise you! I will get you the money.” You know what the king did? The king of bling?
“Don’t worry about it.”
He forgave this servant who created this $10 million debt, he said go on, don’t worry about it. No big deal. Messed him up with mercy. Gutted him with grace.
And you know this forgiven servant is like, “Ho-ho-ho-ho! This is incredible, off the chain! I just got forgiven $10 million.” Because I extrapolated the money system back in the day compared to the money system today. And that’s how much it was. Ten million, think about it…. 10 million. NBA money.
Well, the forgiven servant starts thinking and he’s like, “Man, this dude owes me $2 grand.” And the forgiven servant grabs this guy that owes him $2 grand, puts him in the chokehold. If you watch professional wrestling, the figure 4! And the guy is tapping out.
He’s going, “Gimme my $2 grand! Gimme my $2 grand!” he drags him to prison. King Bling hears about it. When King Bling ain’t happy nobody’s happy. And let’s check out this story as it continues.
Matthew 18:32, “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he 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?’”
Now, are you seeing the plot clot? Hopefully you’re seeing this, but let me spell it out. Let me make it plain. The king is God. The forgiven servant: you and me. Are you smelling what I’m stepping in? OK. Some are like, really? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured…” Because he didn’t have mercy on the guy who owed him $2 grand. He had been greatly forgiven, but he wasn’t showing it to others.
Now verse 35, I would love to delete that from the Bible. Have you ever been reading the Bible and gone, “Well I don’t like that verse. I’m going to skip that verse.” Back in the way we used White Out. I still, I love me some White Out. I just like it. I’m an artist, kind of a frustrated artist, I like to paint with White Out. It’s just me. Some people are like, OK, I’d like to delete it. No, give me White Out.
Anyway, I’d like to White Out this verse. This is bad, man, this is a bad verse. You know, some verses in the Bible are bad, this is bad. Check is out. This is Jesus talking.
(Matthew 18:35) “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.”
He tossed the forgiven servant, who was choking out his friend that owed him $2 grand, the greatly forgiven servant who’s not showing any forgiveness to his friend. He finds out about it, throws him to the torturers.
And basically if we don’t forgive others – let me just put it where you can understand it – God’s coming after us. I mean, that’s scary. You’re going, “Wow, I don’t like this message.” I don’t either. I don’t like this message.
But if I don’t forgive then God’s coming after me. I mean, I’ve been greatly forgiven, I’ve received forgiveness, I’ve walked over the bridge. I’ve been greatly, greatly forgiven, yet because of that I’m not going to forgive?
No, because of that, because of the bridge – The cross is a bridge, I have a bridge to cross – I’m going to forgive. So when I sin, when I mess up, against God and against another person I’ve created a debt. When someone burns you or betrays you, torches you or takes advantage of you, they’ve created a debt. And Jesus is saying cancel the debt. Say it with me. Cancel the debt.
Say it with me in South Carolina, cancel the Debt. Down in Midtown Miami, cancel the debt. South Miami, cancel the debt. Downtown Dallas, cancel the debt. Plano, cancel the debt. Fort Worth, cancel the debt. Online, cancel the debt. Yeah!
Now it does not mean we become BFFs with these people that have messed us around. It does not mean that. And Jesus was not hinting about that. It doesn’t mean toward our ex-spouse, ex-business partner, or someone again, who has burned us or betrayed us, who has torched us or taken advantage of us, it doesn’t mean we have coffee tomorrow at noon together. It doesn’t mean that. Because many times the people that have hurt you and me have no clue about it. They’ve forgotten it. They’re like, “What?” Yeah, I think so. And we’re carrying it around. It’s like bitterness has become our buddy. Hate, our homie.
But when I don’t forgive, when I don’t forgive (and I’ve done this before), I’m saying, “I’m the Xbox; here are the controls. You control my life. You control me. You control me. That’s right. You control me.”
Don’t you see the genius of God? That’s no way to live. Cancel the debt. And you might have to say that before God every hour for a while. Cancel the debt. The debt is canceled. Because there are some people in my life and I know there are some people in your life I would love to get back and absolutely beat the crap out of ‘em. Open up a can on ‘em. You’re the same way, that’s why you’re clapping. Go ahead and clap! Get that anger out!
All right. It’s OK to be angry, it’s all right. God gets angry. It’s OK. However, because of the bridge, cancel the debt. Because when I cancel the debt I’m saying, “You don’t control me anymore. You don’t. You don’t control me anymore.” And I’m not leaning into this hate and bitterness. And we’re going to talk about bitterness and hate and what it can do to your life and mine next time. It’s not worth it.
So once I forgive, what happens? It frees me up. I’m free. For God to use me like never, ever before. And I free up the other person. At least I’ve built a bridge, the foundation of it, on my side. And you know what Jesus says? You know what the Bible says? “Do all you can do. I mean, do what you’re responsible for. I will take care of the other person.” That’s what God says. That’s what Jesus says. So who can settle accounts better? You or God?
“But…” God. God, right? God. That’s what we’re doing. We’re freeing ourselves up, we’re freeing the other person up, we’re leaving room for God to act and to get the person back. Hopefully back on the right track. If they decide to build a foundation on their side and for the bridge deck to meet in the middle, cool. But that doesn’t mean you trust them again. Hello. It doesn’t mean that. I mean, you might talk to them on the street and after months and months and months of them earning trust. Maybe in the yard a little bit, then maybe on the front porch, but as far as “here are the keys to my car…” I don’t know.
But again, we’re just talking about, Jesus is talking about, cancelling the debt. It’s more for the offended than the offender.
But if you’re like me you’re like, “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to wait for that guy to crawl back to me. I’m going to wait for her to crawl back to me to build a bridge.” No.
Illus: There was a gentleman who died several years ago who really burned and betrayed, torched and took advantage of my family while I was growing up. I grew up in a pastor’s home, two brothers. This man was vicious, evil, said things, did things against my family. I can’t even articulate it.
And for several years I think as a family we allowed this person, because this person was very powerful, very wealthy, to sort of control because there was so much emotion involved. And then one day we said “Enough is enough. Debt canceled.”
Then, freedom on our side. Freedom on his side. And I don’t know whatever happened to him. Who knows what he took to the grave. He never built a bridge back to us, but we will see on the other side where he is and what will happen to him. I don’t know. But I can tell you this, he definitely lived a torturous life after what he did to our family, I can tell you that. Because crime does not pay. Betrayal doesn’t pay. Taking advantage of people doesn’t pay.
So if we don’t forgive, we don’t cancel the debt, what’s going to happen? God’s going to come after us. We will live a life of torture. He wants to save us from that. Give us freedom.
Matthew 6:12. I need to do another series on this, the Lord’s Prayer. How many of you have heard of the Lord’s Prayer? “Our Father who art in Heaven…” OK, I need to do a series on that. I did a whole series just on each phrase. I need to do that. I did that back in the day before many of you were born. In the midst of this prayer, here’s what Jesus said. We’re talking about cancelling debt, right? Right?
Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our debts (Jesus talking) as (get your as in gear) we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Whoa. God forgave us – he has forgiven us, we’re greatly forgiven, and because of that we build bridges to others.
So my life and your life should look like this. The ginormous bridge and also little bridges that we build to others. Again, we’re only responsible for the bridge deck and the foundation on our side. What they do is up to them. This is good stuff, man. I’m telling you. I don’t like this message in a lot of ways but it’s ending really good.
Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge.”
See, God knows what the enemy is up to. You know, I know, now what the enemy is up to. He wants us to live a life of revenge and hatred and bitterness. That’s why he said I want to kill you and destroy you and mess you up. And Jesus called him out. That’s the enemy’s game plan. And one of the ways he likes to do it in your life and mine is through, “Oh, I will get revenge myself. I’m bitter. I’m a hater myself.” No, no, no. Don’t take revenge.
“Leave room for God’s wrath for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge. I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
So we have to give up the right to get even.
Three things and then we’ll spur the horse to the barn.
1) Look at the bridge. Look at the bridge. You might be thinking about the bridge, look at the bridge 24/7, look at the bridge. The bridge is the cross and it was built to us. We’ve been greatly forgiven thus we have to forgive others greatly.
2) I will say it again. These are apps. Realize resentment does not work. I’ve done it before, I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. You have, too. It doesn’t work.
Also, 3), we’re going to need a huge measure of grace in the future. Is that the truth?
Now, I would love to diesel on. Next week please be back. I beg you to be back. Next week we’re talking about this on even a deeper level. We’re talking about what unforgiveness will do to you and me and now we’re going to switch it and also talk about what about the offender? What about this jerk? What about my ex or my uncle who took advantage of me? What about…? That’s next week. This is powerful stuff. The #1 need in our survey, relational pain. So let’s talk about it, let’s deal with it, and let’s build the bridges of forgiveness. Are you ready? Let’s build the bridges of forgiveness. Let’s bow for prayer.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]