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Choosing Forgiveness

Dr. Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Norfolk, provides insight on the power of forgiveness and why it is essential in order to have peace in your life. Read Transcript

Well we just saw an amazing story of a husband and wife who

made the incredibly difficult decision to forgive the man who

murdered their daughter.

And joining us now for more insight on forgiveness

is the pastor of First Baptist Norfolk, Eric Thomas.

Eric, welcome.

Thank you, Andrew.

Good to have you here.

My joy.

That story is so powerful.


Anne's father said that forgiveness kept me

from going to a prison cell of anger, too.

So profound.

And it makes me think sometimes we would rather be

in our own cell than forgive.

Why do we choose that?

Well, I think for us the idea of letting

go of an injustice that's been done or taking hold of a hurt

and then killing it is just so painful to even imagine.

ANDREW: Even on a small scale-- nothing compared to it.


I mean, if you think about when someone does you wrong,

you want them to get paid back for that

and that's the natural part of us and it's hard for us.

Ann Voskamp, who is kind of a popular writer right

now-- my wife was reading and sent me a quote

from her about forgiveness.

She says that forgiveness-- for forgiveness to happen,

something has to die.

And of course, as followers of Jesus,

we know that Jesus died for our forgiveness.

But even in our own relationships--

in the horizontal relationships we

have-- it's putting to death the right to get even.

ANDREW: And that's not fun to do.

That's not fun to do.

And then CS Lewis said, everybody

likes the idea of forgiveness until they

have someone to forgive.



So oftentimes, we choose to hold it

and we think that benefits us in some way.

ERIC: Yeah.

To use a well-worn analogy of holding on to the hurt

that somebody has done to us is like drinking poison

and think it's going to hurt the person that's hurt us.

ANDREW: And we know that, I think.

And we do, but there's so much in us that wants justice

and we fail to have the perspective

of this amazing couple that Jesus wants us to forgive.


So what can we learn about Jesus, about the process?

And we know about Him on the cross

and what He said about forgiving them, Father.


When He said, Father forgive them,

He was really painting a picture of how we are to live.

And there can be no greater crime

against another than to kill them unjustly.

And that's what Jesus was experiencing but he modeled

for us-- and he meant it Himself--

Father, please forgive them.

But He modeled for us how that we're to live.

Paul picked it up in Ephesians 4 when he said, "Be kind to one

another, tenderhearted-- forgiving one another

even as God in Christ also forgave you.

And be imitators of God as dearly-loved children

and live a life of love."

Those are mandates for us but Jesus modeled it for us

so that we might live in the freedom that forgiveness offers

us, as well as the person we forgive.

So if we make the tough decision that we may not

want to make, which is, all right, Lord,

I'm going to try to do--


--what you called me to do, how does praying affect maybe

how we see the one who has violated us?

I think just looking at that prayer of Jesus on the cross,

if we begin to pray like Jesus and we

begin to look at how He prayed, when we pray,

it gives us a heart like Jesus and I

think that gets us closer to that supernatural grace

of forgiving someone else.

So the more we pray, the closer our heart

is fused with the heart of the one we love, Jesus.

The second thing is prayer moves us

from just learning about forgiveness to actually living


It gives us that supernatural grace and ability

to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply.

And then prayer helps us move from cursing someone

for the crimes they've done against us to actually blessing


Jesus taught on this principle in Luke 6.

He said, "Bless those who curse you and pray for those

who spitefully use you."

And yet, He modeled it on the cross.

He didn't just teach it-- he modeled it.

And so when we pray, it moves us to a place

where we can start blessing people instead of cursing.

Now, that's neat little preacher stuff--

it's harder to do in practice.

ANDREW: Well, look what it does, too--

it makes us such great ambassadors for Jesus--


--when people look at that situation and say,

there's reconciliation there.

How is that?


The mother said it perfectly, forgiveness is our part.

Repentance is the other person's part

and no reconciliation is going to happen apart

from forgiveness and repentance.


So we may not have reconciliation--


--but at least we can forgive and unburden ourself.

We can do our part.

Our job, first and foremost as followers of Christ,

to experience the best in life, is

to honor the one who has given us life.

And to be an imitator of God as dearly-loved children means

that we're going to let the crime go.

We're going to cover it with God's grace and that's hard.

ANDREW: And it's certainly helpful, isn't it,

to consider what we have been forgiven of?

When we think about the sin in our own life--

and I think it helps us be better forgivers when we

understand the crimes that we have done.

And it's easier for me to forgive others

because I recognize how wicked I've been in my life

and how much has been forgiven me.

And so it makes it a lot easier for me to forgive others.

It's a powerful principle but it's a hard journey.

ANDREW: I know there's a lot of people watching who have

unforgiveness in their heart.


It's just a natural part of life on this journey

that people offend us.

They violate us-- whether it's valid

or not-- we have these feelings.

And the unforgiveness is such a heavy burden.

I would like you to pray for people--

ERIC: Absolutely.

--who have that resentment and are in that prison cell--


ANDREW: --so that they can find freedom.

Would you do that?


Father, right now we thank You that You

have loved us enough to send Jesus

to die on a cross for sinners like us--

that He was raised from the dead to give us

a new chance at life.

And through faith in Him, we have a supernatural power

by Your spirit living within us to move

beyond the cell of our own bitterness or hatred or anger.

Right now, I pray that You would be with those whom we know

and those who are watching today that You would by Your spirit

invade them with Your love.


that you would overwhelm them with Your grace.

That You would show them Your powerful forgiving

love that has reached out to them

and that You would equip them and enable

them to turn the key on that cell

and escape the anger and the bitterness and even the hatred

by forgiving those who have offended them.

God, I pray that You would give them that supernatural grace

so that the person whom they forgive

is on a step closer toward reconciliation and fullness

of life and so that we who forgive

might also experience the fullness of life in You.

We ask this in the name--

the mighty name of Jesus.




Thank you, Eric.

Thank you, Andrew.

This is so important.

Appreciate you being here.


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