I shared a story in this sermon about a church where I used to preach. The previous minister, for some reason, taught the people “If you haven’t forgotten then you haven’t really forgiven.” I’ve struggled to understand the logic of such a statement and often wondered just how ingrained phrases like “forgive and forget” are in the minds of believers. Do we really think that we’re supposed to forget our hurts? Do we understand that there is a difference between forgiveness and trust? That you don’t put a forgiven pedophile in the church nursery?
After last week’s sermon on “Judge Not,” I knew God was working on me with this message. It came together quickly, which allowed it to germinate in my heart over the course of the week. I can’t say it changed a lot, but I can say I did. I felt God’s grace working on me in new ways.[pullquote]I owe it to those who have hurt me to be the greatest display of the grace of God in their lives.[/pullquote]On Friday before I preached this sermon I committed to finally reading (finishing) Brennan Manning’s “The Ragamuffin Gospel.” I hate to admit it, but I had tried to read it several times and never got past the first few chapters. I look back now, though, and realize that there were times when I was reading it for all the wrong reasons. The first time I tried to read it I did so in rebellion. The other times because it was cool and insightful. This time it was because my heart needed it.
I also listened to Manning’s sermon, “God Loves You As You Are, Not As You Should Be” three times over the course of two days. It really worked on me.
A week before I preached the message I sat down to write some preliminary notes. I didn’t expect any big insights, but I was already being worked on with the idea from the previous sermon, “Jesus wants me to fall so in love with his grace that I want nothing less for anyone else.” As I sat to write my notes a thought hit me that I had to write down. “I owe it to those who have hurt me to be the greatest display of the grace of God in their lives.”
I still struggle with what that ultimately means. I struggle with how that should look. But I look at Jesus and I consider what I have received from the one I crucified and I know it’s true.
The next sermon is on the misunderstanding, “God will not give you more than you can bear.” It’s not a happy sermon. It’s hard. I feel like it’s growing out of these previous two.