Forgiveness

And So We Begin

Romans 1:1-7 (NLT)

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.

And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.


Today we begin what will be a relatively long sermonic journey through Romans, but I’m praying it also will be a joyous, productive trip. By the time we finish in November, God willing, I hope we know our redeemer and ourselves a little better, thanks to Paul’s insights during the early life of the church.

Our verses today are an introduction, and we should begin this journey by being sure we fully understand the man, the place, and the plan. By the man, I mean the Apostle Paul, the author. By the place, I mean Rome, home of his Christian audience. The plan is a reference to God’s work through Jesus Christ, a theme that will be at the heart of everything we hear from the Book of Romans these next nine months or so.

Paul was in his day and is unto today a controversial figure. People uncomfortable with Paul’s assertions about specific Christian behaviors sometimes go so far as to separate the faith into what could be called “Jesus Christianity” and “Pauline Christianity.” It is a false separation, and a dangerous one. Instead, it is correct to see Paul and his ministry as flowing directly from Jesus Christ, an extension of the work Christ did among us.

I can make such an assertion because Paul’s conversion to Christ, recorded in Acts in both third person and first person and alluded to in other parts of the New Testament, was a direct experience of the risen Savior. It was a 180-degree turn for Paul, who was a respected, scholarly Jew, a man who had studied under one of the finest Jewish rabbis to ever live. Paul, whose Jewish name was Saul, was actually in the process of pursuing and persecuting Christians when the risen Jesus confronted him in a blinding flash and a voice from heaven.

The link between Jesus Christ and Paul is undeniable for anyone who takes the Holy Bible seriously. We therefore have to take the Apostle Paul seriously, even if he is a teacher who often challenges us through his writings in ways that make us uncomfortable. If you don’t know what I mean when I say he can make us uncomfortable, just keep showing up for these sermons.

In addition to his role as apostle—the title for a person called to preach salvation through Jesus Christ and establish new churches—Paul in many ways functioned as Christianity’s first organized theologian. That is, he began the process of systematically describing what it means to follow Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned earlier, Paul was an educated Jew, having trained under a great rabbi named Gamaliel. Paul’s conversion did not cause him to surrender his education; instead, he began to apply his understanding of Judaism to his newfound faith in Jesus Christ.

You can see evidence of this in his introductory statements we’ve read today. For example, when Paul referred to the Christians in Rome as “loved by God” and “called to be his own holy people,” he was evoking Old Testament language previously applied to the Israelites. Paul was leading the Roman Christians to see themselves as the new beneficiaries of a very ancient promise.

Because Paul flew higher intellectually than most other early Christians, he can be a bit harder to study. That’s one of the reasons we will be using the New Living Translation throughout the year. We may lose some of the subtle nuances of his wording, but we will gain much in readability.

If it makes you feel any better, Peter, a man who walked with Jesus and served in the Messiah’s inner circle, even commented in one of his letters that “some of [Paul’s] comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture.”  (2 Peter 3:15-16.)

Note, however, that Peter’s words indicate he already considered Paul’s writings to have the same force as holy Scripture, which was just beginning to take shape. Other apostles also seem to have held Paul in high regard, once they overcame their initial fear of him as their former persecutor.

So, we’ve talked about the man. Let’s discuss the place a little. Paul was deeply interested in the church in Rome for a unique reason. Christians were already there; no church planting by this particular apostle was needed. But it is clear Paul saw this particular set of Christians as very important, and he wanted to be sure they had a proper understanding of Christianity.

Rome was, after all, at the heart of the known world. All roads ultimately led to Rome, and more importantly to an evangelism-minded apostle, all the roads in Rome led to the far reaches. If Christ’s mandate that the story of salvation be told everywhere were to be fulfilled, then the church in Rome had to be strong and sound.

If you’re a student of history at all, I don’t have to tell you what an incredible insight that was. We will talk more about Paul’s longing for Rome next week.

Paul also took God’s plan of salvation and rooted it in a couple of critically important words, “grace” and “peace.” As we begin this journey, we need to embed those words in our minds and hearts.

Grace, of course, is a particular word we use to describe unmerited love. God sent his Son to die on the cross not because of some sort of rule established for the functioning of the universe, but because God is, more than anything else, love. We will hear of the cross and its effects repeatedly as we explore Romans.

Let us never forget that God’s work through Jesus Christ is a tremendous expression of love. Knowing we are so loved should give us tremendous peace, regardless of what circumstances we may face. If we find ourselves troubled, it is only because we have forgotten the great truth of the cross—we are loved, despite our sins.

As we go through Romans, we will need to return to the words “grace” and “peace” on a regular basis. Understand what I am saying: Paul’s letter to the Romans is going to challenge us. This journey through Romans will at times be hard. Later in this first chapter, Paul makes some assertions about sin that go to the heart of major disputes in churches all over the globe today.

Studying Romans should cause us all to grow in our understanding of salvation, in our faith, and yes, even in old-fashioned concepts like holiness and radical forgiveness.

I, for one, am quite excited.

 

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A Beach Moment

There are stories in the Bible so powerful that I find it daunting to elaborate on them in any way. To do so is like standing in a gallery before a beautiful painting and breaking the holy silence by saying, “Note how the lines merge at this point.”

In this Easter season, I want to share with you such a text. It is, by the way, my favorite story in the Bible, the place I go for comfort. For me, it captures everything being revealed about God from Genesis to Revelation.

And yes, I feel like I’m already over-explaining it.

As a reader, do me a favor. I know we often read blogs as part of our hurried lives, our eyes racing over the words while our e-mail and texts beep for attention. Don’t do that today.

Please, either slow down or come back when you have more time, and carefully read John 21:1-19 the way you would read a really good novel. There are characters in pain in this story; remember, the disciples know Jesus is alive, but they also know they ran and hid when Jesus needed them most. And most of all, there is the resurrected Jesus, bringing healing.

—————–

Now that you’ve read it, let me share with you a few of the thoughts this text has given me over the years.

  • Even when faced with miraculous evidence of God’s presence, the best of us, when confronted with our sinful weaknesses, may want to turn back to what we used to be.
  • Because of the resurrection, we are a people of abundance. We simply have to see and accept that abundance.
  • The resurrected Jesus is exalted and glorified, and yet he meets us where we are, with love, grace and forgiveness, even if the sin is abandonment and betrayal. (I wonder, had Judas lived, how would Jesus have offered him forgiveness?)
  • And of course, as we are restored by Jesus, there is a mission—perhaps a difficult one—but a mission that gives us purpose beyond our former lives.

Because of Jesus, we know we worship a God of love, a God who asks only that we return to him by accepting the free gift of forgiveness and salvation. It’s also nice if we respond to the gift as best we can.

God forgive me if I just got in the way of a good story.

The Prophet Who Never Got It

“Jonah and the Whale,” Pieter Lastman, 1620, made available through the Google Art Project

“Jonah and the Whale,” Pieter Lastman, 1620, made available through the Google Art Project

The Book of Jonah

Do you ever wish God were different? It sounds like a strange question, but the prophet Jonah could have easily answered, “Yes.”

The story of Jonah opens with the prophet at home somewhere in Israel, hearing from God with the clarity most biblical prophets seem to experience. God gave Jonah a simple command: “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”

Nineveh was to the east, in what is now the northern part of Iraq. (Its ruins are near the city of Mosul, where so many battles have been fought in recent years. With Mosul currently under control of Islamic State, we’re likely to see more.) It was one of the great cities of the Assyrian empire, a wonder to those who beheld it. Jonah had no doubt which direction Nineveh lay, yet Jonah headed west by sea, rather than east by land.

The story tells us Jonah went to the coast and got on a ship bound for Tarshish, a place not easily identified today. In the novel Moby Dick, the clergyman at the New Bedford Whaleman’s Chapel, Father Mapple, preaches on Jonah and asserts that Tarshish must have been a port in Spain, the farthest point west a Jew in Jonah’s day would have known. It’s not a bad notion—we’re told Jonah is trying to go “away from the presence of the Lord,” so what seemed like the end of the earth would have been a logical destination.

Storms soon began to worry the ship on its journey to Tarshish, however, to the point that the pagan crew cried out to their various gods. The captain implored Jonah to pray, too. They cast lots to determine who was the cause of the problem, and the throw of the dice showed it was Jonah.

And, very early in the story, Jonah began to understand that God was present regardless of how far Jonah ran or sailed. He admitted to the crew who he was and what he had done, and despite their initial reluctance, he convinced them to throw him in the sea. The sea immediately became calm.

This brings us to the part we know best from childhood: God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. (Yes, it could have been a whale; the Hebrew word used in the story literally means a large fish, but the Jews would have used this word to include whales.) In the belly of this large sea critter, Jonah prayed a powerful psalm, in part acknowledging that God is everywhere, even capable of hearing one of his rebellious prophets trapped beneath the waves, “at the roots of the mountains.”

In response to this prayer, God had the fish vomit Jonah out somewhere on dry land. And Jonah once again heard his marching orders: “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” This time, Jonah headed in the right direction, presumably after cleaning himself up.

Once in Nineveh, Jonah preached his message. “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And here’s the twist we might not expect when reading this story the first time—those pagan, supposedly godless residents of sprawling Nineveh responded!

Even the king put on sackcloth and ashes and repented. He ordered everyone to do the same, and to fast. They went so far as to cover the livestock with sackcloth and withhold the animals’ food or water. The prayers, wails, bleating and lowing set up a din that had to reach to heaven.

God heard, and God relented from the destruction he had promised. And that, we learn, was precisely what Jonah feared would happen.

“O Lord!” he prayed. “Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”

Jonah was so bitter, he prayed that God might kill him. You see, the Israelites considered the people of Nineveh their enemy. The Jews had suffered terribly under Assyrian rule; Jonah had hoped for a scene of destruction worthy of Sodom and Gomorrah. And now, here was the God the Jews acknowledged, the God over all things, showing mercy to these people!

All Jonah could do was pout. That pretty much sums up the rest of the story of Jonah. He pouted while God explained his deep concern for the people of Nineveh, using a simple plant as an example.

God is love. God is mercy. Yes, God’s holiness demands justice, too; and yet, God seems to have this unrelenting desire to let people off the hook, to forgive, to find a way to draw people back into relationships with him.

That truth is best expressed through Jesus Christ, of course. Through the great sacrifice of Christ on the cross, God found a way to extend mercy to all, no matter what evil has been done. Repercussions in this life for our bad deeds may be unavoidable, but a renewed, ongoing relationship with God is constantly available, in any moment, on any day, under any circumstances.

When we find ourselves hoping God will crush someone, we’re wishing God were different. When we think there’s no way God could love us, forgive us, or change us, we’re underestimating who God is.

Question is, why would we want to wish for a different kind of God? The one we have offers eternal life. We’ll do no better than that.

The Upside-Down World

Matthew 18:21-35

Last week, I talked about the importance of communication, describing a model Jesus gave us to seek peace in times of discord. A few of my congregants told me afterward they found the sermon to be a bit of a toe-stomper—all of us, myself included, were thinking of moments where we had let our tongues get ahead of our relationships.

At least there is lots of forgiveness to go around. Jesus’ teaching on communication and unity is followed immediately in Matthew by a question from the disciple Peter: “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”

Peter’s question implies there are limits to forgiveness, even within the community of Jesus’ followers. Jesus’ answer, however, shows there should be no limits. Yes, Jesus provides a specific number, but biblically, sevens upon sevens point us toward a lifelong behavior rooted in an eternal truth.

Of all the marks of a dedicated Christian, a willingness to offer forgiveness may be the most important one. Jesus follows his answer with a parable, telling the story of a slave whose master forgives a ridiculously large debt. The slave, however, later refuses to forgive one of his debtors, a fellow slave who owes him a relative pittance. When the master finds out, he rescinds his forgiveness of the large debt and punishes the slave terribly.

“So my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart,” Jesus says in concluding the parable.

The demand on Christians to offer forgiveness within the community is indisputable, it would seem. And yet, I often see people struggling with the concept after disputes within their churches. I even have heard Christians use the phrase “I’ll never forgive you” or “I could never forgive that,” which, in the context of the parable mentioned above, causes me grave concern.

Forgiveness is a difficult concept because it seems to conflict with our desire for justice, particularly when we consider ourselves victims. There’s no doubt the two are somewhat related—some people certainly find it easier to forgive after justice has been achieved—but we have to remember the two concepts are not mutually dependent. And forgiveness is hardly the weak theological sister to justice. We are all told to forgive; we have no guarantees of justice as long as the world remains broken, just a promise God will set all things right in the end.

To borrow from Acts 17:6, we are called to turn the common notions of the world upside-down, just as the early Christians were accurately accused of doing. Forgiveness does this more than any other Christian concept, I think. Its most powerful effect is when it ends the cycle of punch and counter-punch, the model the world has long upheld as the norm, the way of thinking still driving much of the decision-making in the world today. Forgiveness likely prevented mass slaughter in South Africa after apartheid came to an end. Properly understood by the right people, forgiveness could end the problems of the Middle East.

Forgiveness also has the possibility to create some very awkward situations on Judgment Day. Imagine this scenario: A man full of anger and evil murders another man, and goes to prison for life. (Justice in this life actually prevails.) As years pass, the murderer learns that even his sins are covered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and he accepts Christ as his savior.

During the same time, the brother of the murdered man, a leader in his church, grows angrier and angrier about the crime, despite the killer’s conviction. The brother wants a more painful punishment for the killer, every day imagining the worst kinds of prison deaths. He never lets go of his anger, his hatred, leading a bitter life to the end.

At the judgment, who, according to our text today, is better off? With forgiveness as an important standard, Judgment Day is liable to be a strange scene. As hearts are measured for forgiveness, we may be surprised at who stands as righteous with God, and who does not.

 

A Very High Price

 

El Greco, "Christum am Kreuz," c. 1578, oil on copper, via Wikimedia Commons

El Greco, “Christum am Kreuz,” c. 1578, oil on copper, via Wikimedia Commons

1 Peter 1:17-23

What is salvation worth?

Strictly in terms of what it costs us, salvation is worth very little. In fact, we usually talk about salvation as a free gift from God. And like a lot of life’s freebies, even people who accept the general idea of the gift can begin to devalue it.

They may even treat the free gift as something to be taken seriously only when necessary, maybe in old age, near death. To do so, they of course must first deny the possibility that life could deviate from the course they have imagined. But once they’ve firmly deluded themselves on this point, salvation becomes like a gallon of milk to be picked up on the way home from work, except salvation seems cheaper.

Such a human perspective is very wrong, however. Salvation should never be treated as if it is worth what it costs us. The value of salvation is rooted in what the gift cost God. Writing this down, I almost feel silly stating something that seems so obvious. And yet, even people who call themselves Christians sometimes act as if they don’t get it.

The Apostle Peter addressed the cost of salvation in a general letter he wrote to be circulated among churches, a letter we now call 1 Peter. We cannot even begin to quantify the value of salvation in terms of earthly wealth, he tells us. A perfect, sinless being, a man who also was fully God, died so we would not face the punishment we are due for defying our creator.

Why? Simply because the one who made us loves us so much.

In this Easter season, let’s revisit the cross. Most of us have heard stories of Jesus’ humiliation, beating and gruesome death. There was another kind of pain, however, a deeper suffering.

Think on your worst sins. Think of the pain they caused, the damage they did to those around you. Christ absorbed the effect of those sins, removing the power those sins had over you. Now we begin to understand the real pain of the cross—Christ bearing our sins and every sin ever committed. What astounds me is that the tremendous weight of our sins did not rip Christ from the cross and crush him.

I also suspect it was more than just the sin in humanity that caused Jesus to suffer. When evil first escaped into the world, creation was fractured mightily, like a porcelain vase tapped with a hammer. In his suffering and dying, Christ repaired all the cracks, pulling them together with his pierced, outstretched limbs in ways we cannot comprehend.

One drop of his holy blood is worth more than all the gold in the universe, and much more than one drop was shed in the remaking of creation. We already have seen an initial sign of this remaking in the resurrection, and because we are freed from sin, we will see the remaking in full.

When we accept this truth, we begin to live in new ways—not because of any rules we’re following, but because we know we can never provide an adequate response to what God has done. We begin to live as if we’re actually astonished by God’s love.

How do we not respond with everything we have: our time, our money, our very lives? In Wesleyan denominations, we speak often of sanctification, of growing in our love so we respond to God and those around us as Jesus would. Every step on this path to holiness is made by better absorbing the truth of what Jesus did, of what he continues to do this day in the world through the Holy Spirit.

I ask you again: What is salvation worth? Let your answer guide your life.

When God Gets Personal

Jeremiah 31:27-34

These seem like trying times.

There’s the U.S. government, of course. I don’t have to go into more detail for you to understand what I mean. I don’t even have to make any partisan statements. One thing everyone can agree on: something’s broken, and that brokenness triggers suspicion and fear.

As a pastor, I would also say that October more and more is a difficult month for people. I don’t know why; maybe it’s the change of seasons. Other pastors have noticed a change in attitudes around this time, too. People, even church people, act out in anger more, saying or doing things they probably regret later.

I have wondered if the depressing, overarching theme of the month causes some of these disturbances of the soul. I’m personally not crazy about October because Halloween has become such a big deal in our culture, and I feel during the month that I’m constantly inundated with zombies and bloody, evil imagery. If NBC doesn’t stop running those promos for “Dracula” soon, I’m going to have to stop watching the network.

It could be a lot worse, though. As my son is fond of saying, those are all “First World problems.” We’re not surrounded by our enemies, under siege and starving, awaiting an attack that is going to lead to mass slaughter. That’s the situation people have repeatedly found themselves in throughout history; in particular, that’s the position the prophet Jeremiah and the people of Jerusalem found themselves in about 600 years before Jesus Christ was born.

This story is remarkable because of what God said through Jeremiah in the midst of this impending doom. I also love the way Jeremiah personally responded to God’s promises.

Jerusalem clearly was going to fall to the invading Babylonian Empire. In his role as prophet, Jeremiah had said as much, and it did happen. Before the fall, Jewish King Zedekiah imprisoned Jeremiah for daring to say so.

There was more to Jeremiah’s prophecies, however. He also related promises from God that still resonate in our lives today. “The days are surely coming, says the Lord.” Those are the words marking the beginnings of these promises.

First, the Lord said, the time of tearing down and punishing what had become a divided, disobedient children of God would end. The people of Israel would return to their homes. And not only that, a new way of relating to God would begin. Rather than being judged as a nation, each person would be judged individually for his or her sins. That is the point of the “sour grapes” verses.

Second, that new way of relating to God would lead to a new covenant, a deeply personal one. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” Jeremiah said on God’s behalf. There also was a third promise that Jerusalem will one day be remade into a holy place, “sacred to the Lord,” never again to be “uprooted or overthrown.”

Jeremiah even put his money where his mouth was. A cousin came to him, wanting Jeremiah to buy a field in Anathoth, their hometown. Imagine paying valuable silver for a piece of land just as a foreign army is about to take all the land around you—on its face, the transaction looked quite foolish.

Jeremiah bought the field to make a point, however. God’s promises are trustworthy. The land would one day be returned to the Israelites. Jeremiah had the deed of purchase sealed in an earthenware jar so he or his descendants could one day prove ownership of the field in question.

And God’s promises were fulfilled—in fact, they are still being fulfilled—in astounding ways.

For us, these promises were fulfilled most importantly through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ life and death on the cross established that promised personal relationship for us. When Jesus died for our sins, we once again had a path to God. Believe in the effectiveness of his Son’s death and resurrection, and we are once again able to go to a holy God despite our sins.

And there’s more. When we enter that relationship, God’s Holy Spirit begins to work within us. That’s as personal as a relationship can be, God’s Spirit whispering to our spirits. Such interaction changes us and shapes us, re-making us into what God intended us to be.

Those promises from God carried Jeremiah and the children of Israel through conquest and captivity, sustaining them until they were returned to the land. And they likely were clueless as to just how far God would go. The Christ who would come centuries later, and how he would actually make salvation possible for all, was beyond their imaginations.

We should fare much better as we face our First World problems, particularly when we consider the knowledge we have about how God is making all things new. We can look to the Bible for sustenance; we can look to our hearts to see what God is doing, assuming we have faithfully let God in.

Jeremiah’s words are a lesson for any trying times.

Release from Pain

First in a Sermon Series

First in a Sermon Series

Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV): Then 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?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

The January sermon series we’re launching into today is going to be different. In fact, I wonder if the sermons I’m going to preach would have gotten me an “F” in seminary preaching class.

Preaching professors tend to emphasize the need to connect the congregation to the big concepts in the Bible. By the time you’re done hearing a sermon, you should be thinking about ideas like grace, resurrection and eternity.

I’m sure we’ll touch on those subjects the next few weeks, but my primary focus is going to be much more mundane. When it comes to church involvement, we’re going to ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” And I’m going to try to provide answers regarding the practical, short-term benefits of being in a church community.

I want to begin this series by talking about a kind of pain most of us know. Involvement in a healthy church community can free us from this pain.

When we talk about sin in church, we usually think about ourselves as the sinners, the people in need of forgiveness. And that’s appropriate, of course. We all fall short of holiness. We all make decisions that separate us from God, and we need Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to make union with God possible.

Sin runs rampant, however, and because it is so widespread, each of us at some point in our lives is likely to play another role: the victim of sin.

We can find ourselves victimized in big ways. For example, children who are abused or molested by the adults who should be protecting them can be deeply, tragically affected by the experience. Some can be so devastated that they are led into sin themselves as they grow older, inflicting the acts they suffered on others and perpetuating a cycle of sin.

We also can feel victimized in smaller ways. Maybe someone has cheated us. Maybe harsh words during a disagreement have triggered powerful emotions, the kind that can linger for months or years if left unresolved.

Whether in big or small situations, victims naturally feel angry. If that anger is not resolved in a reasonable amount of time, the victim experiences even greater harm. To heal, a victim needs to forgive, even if the offender never seeks to be forgiven.

When we are in a healthy Christian community, we are among people who practice forgiveness and all the behaviors that make forgiveness possible. It is a kind of forgiveness that is without limitation; that is what Jesus means when he says to forgive someone “seventy times seven.” Fair communication, patience and perspective would be high on my list of important scriptural behaviors that lead to forgiving hearts.

By fair communication, I mean the model Jesus provides us in Matthew 18:15-17. This model and our forgiveness-without-limits text provide context for each other. Yes, Jesus’ communication model ultimately calls for separating yourself from a sinner who will not listen; it doesn’t allow us to forego forgiveness, however.

By patience, I mean we give each other the benefit of the doubt. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve spoken and been misunderstood or acted in ways that were misinterpreted. In a healthy church, we assume the best of each other until it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that someone is not being nice.

Perspective simply means that we as Christians are mature enough to understand that we’re all imperfect and deserving of God’s punishment. We forgive graciously because we are forgiven with infinite grace. That’s the point of the parable that follows Jesus’ “seventy times seven” teaching.

In a community where such forgiveness is practiced, we learn from experience the value of letting go of grudges, anger and a need to get even. The pain anger brings us should melt away in such a warm environment.

And yes, there are real, tangible benefits. The Mayo Clinic lists on its web site these benefits of forgiving someone:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

The WebMD site lists additional benefits: a stronger immune system and reductions in back pain, headaches and stomach problems. There is a powerful link between our willingness to forgive and our health.

Yes, forgiveness can be difficult. It is a process. But it is a process a healthy church can encourage, a major benefit to those in its midst.