A few years ago I heard a young woman speak about the phrase “hurt people, hurt people.” I’ve thought about that phrase often since hearing it. I’ve used it when helping my children through difficult situations when they’ve been hurt by others.
Hurt people do hurt people. More than that, all of us have been hurt and all of us have hurt others.
Its what we do with the hurt that matters.
When hurt people hurt you do you lash out and attack?
Do you act like the Pharisees and put on your holier than thou face?
Do you humbly shake the dust off your feet and walk away, leaving the outcome in the hands of our Heavenly Father?
I’ll tell you, doing the last one is hard! At least for me it is. I want to lash out and inflict pain on the one that inflicted pain on me. I hope I’m not alone. The fact is, I’ve often lashed out at those who caused the pain and sadly, sometimes at those that had nothing to do with the pain but happened to be in the way. Humanity doesn’t always allow us to handle circumstances the way we’d like to handle them. This doesn’t make it right, and this doesn’t excuse the behavior. I believe this is our humanity getting in the way and a part of the struggle to clothe ourselves with the fruit of the spirit. Living by the spirit at all times is impossible…if it were possible, there would have been no need for Jesus to suffer and die in our place.
Praise God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit!!! That soft breath of God that speaks gently and gives us opportunity to repent. If we fail again? We repent again and put our trust in Jesus again. We keep trusting the Holy Spirit to work in us, and we trust our Heavenly Father to rightly sort everything out in his time.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. Isn’t that why Jesus told Peter he must forgive 7×70 (infinitely) when asked how many times he should forgive a brother that sinned against him in Matthew 18?
21Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Don’t you think that Jesus knew how hard it is for us dumb sheep to break away from our humanness? Especially when we’ve been hurt? Jesus knows sanctification doesn’t mean immediate perfection. He KNOWS we’re gonna continue to fail. He knows we’re gonna continue to sin and disappoint those around us. He knows forgiveness will be difficult and granting mercy will be nearly impossible. That’s why he told Peter to forgive his brother as many times as he is asked. Yet that’s not really it either, because forgiveness doesn’t depend on being asked…it depends on a heart attitude of forgiving.
Oh Lord grant all of your children a heart attitude of forgiveness!
So what happens if we don’t forgive? Jesus continues addressing the issue in the parable that follows Peters question.
A servant was forgiven of a great debt by his master after begging for mercy. Instead of sharing the mercy, he went to a fellow servant and demanded the small debt he was owed be paid… the servant responds to the pleas of his fellow servant for mercy by having him thrown in prison. When the master is told, he summons the servant, calls him wicked and has him thrown in prison. Jesus states that this is what will happen to those who refuse to forgive.
32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,k until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
This is a dangerous condition, but one that I admit would be easy to slide into, and one that I most certainly have found myself guilty of for a time.
Whoa is me! When we do this, we put ourselves in the place of God. We decide that the party that hurt us should be punished, so we hand down what we feel is the appropriate punishment. We momentarily forget that pronouncing judgment is not our place. In addition, we are not capable of righteous judgement.
Jesus has already paid our debt. We stand forgiven, righteous and holy before our Heavenly Father. When we pronounce judgement we are like the wicked servant that was forgiven of great things but won’t forgive our fellow servant of lesser things.
You say your fellow servant’s sins weren’t lesser? I disagree. Every one of is a “chief sinner.” Every one of us should find our sin greater than our fellow brother and sisters sin because our sin alone nailed our Savior to the Cross.
That debt has been paid all the more if the pain has been inflicted by a believer. That person’s punishment was taken to the Cross. If we punish them, we are saying that God’s plan wasn’t enough. That puts us in a very dangerous place spiritually. God made this plan for our good. Our hearts are deceitful, we are not equipped to rightly judge appropriately.
This doesn’t mean there may not be consequences or discipline. But punishment is not ours to hand down.
My question, when you look inward and examine yourself, your motives, what do you find? Do you find a struggle? Do you find yourself wanting to do the right thing but not always able to do the right thing? Do you find yourself convicted by the Holy Spirit and repenting of your sin, or your arrogance in believing you have a right to judge those who have sinned against you? Or do you find yourself standing self righteously before your fellow sinner pronouncing judgment? If so, you may be harboring unforgiveness and bitterness.
One of the men in our church died this week. He was the picture of health for his age until his wife found him unresponsive from a stroke. Three days later his spirit departed his body. We never know when God will call us home. I come asking you (and speaking to myself) to examine yourself. Are you harboring unforgiveness and bitterness? If the Holy Spirit is tugging on your heart and the answer is yes, I implore you to repent before it’s too late.
Before God allows your heart to be hardened.
Before relationships are destroyed.
Before you stand in front of the Heavenly Father and find as the unforgiving servant found.
I pray that God will use his Holy Spirit to convict us of any bitterness or unforgiveness. I pray that one day we will all stand as Jim now stands, his body cold but his soul full and free of sin worshiping Jesus before the throne of the Almighty.