Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Title: Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:5

Time: June 3rd, 2007

The Middle East is a mess right now because of un-forgiveness. The Arab-Israeli conflict is mostly about un-forgiveness. Both the Arabs and the Israelis have a long list of grievances that they both recall whenever they want to prove that they’ve been unjustly treated. These grievances go back centuries and centuries, even millennia; they are now part of the cultural identity of both groups. Not until both sides are willing to settle those grievances and forgive one another will there be lasting peace in the Middle East. That’s easier said than done. We know it’s hard because we struggle with the same problem of settling our differences with people and forgiving; everybody does. Today, we continue in our study of the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 with verse five, which reads in part, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” It’s not just a message the Middle East needs to learn, it’s a message we all need to learn and live in the here and now. We keep coming back to the fact that divorce happens in every other marriage; why is that? One of the reasons for the high divorce rate in our country is couples keep a record of wrongs and fail to forgive one another. What happens in the Middle East on a large scale happens on a smaller scale in marriage and families all across our nation. Couples refuse to forgive one another and conflict escalates leading to a divorce. I like to ask people who I am counseling and who are going through a personal conflict: “If we took your conflict with all the bad attitudes and activities you experience and multiply them to a global scale, what would be the state of the world?” The answer is usually something like World War III. But stop and think about that question: “If your attitudes and actions when you are involved in a personal conflict with someone else where multiplied on a national or regional conflict, what state would the world be in?” That’s a sobering reminder that should keep us motivated to learn how to resolve conflicts and forgive people. God calls us to love people, which is never easy, but requires that we learn to forgive. In the past few weeks we’ve been learning how to love by being patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, and not easily angered. Today, we learn how to love by not keeping a record of wrongs done against us. What is this but learning how to forgive? When we do not forgive someone who has wronged us it means we keep a record of what they’ve done to us and update it frequently in order to keep the grievance alive. Or in other words, we do exactly what they do in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, we do the same thing with our conflicts with others: we don’t forgive. But God calls us to forgive, so let’s find out how we can learn to forgive. I’ll say three things about forgiveness.

First, what does it mean to forgive? 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Before talking about how to forgive, let’s define what it means to forgive. Webster’s Dictionary defines forgive as: 1. to cease to feel resentment against an offender, to pardon, 2. to give up resentment of or claim to requital for (an offense), 3. to grant relief from payment of (a debt).” I think these definitions are pretty good at getting to the proper understanding of forgiveness, even as the Bible defines it in the Old and New Testaments. So, in other words, when we forgive someone we give up our grievances with them, we give up our claim for repayment from them. Think about your own life and how this relates to you. When you forgive someone you are saying that they don’t have to pay whatever you feel you are owed or that whatever you feel they owed you is settled because either they paid it or it was paid by another. For example, if somebody put you down, cuts you down, says something mean about you, it bothers you. You may feel resentment. What do you want from them? You want an apology or some kind of correction, some payment in word or deed that they are sorry. That would settle things. But the problem with requiring that everyone make things right with you for every offense is that it’s an impossible situation. There is no way that every grievance, every conflict, every offense can be corrected, settled, squared away. It’s impossible. Anybody who is waiting for the world to apologize to them for offenses and grievances will be “waiting until the cows come home” as they say; it’s just not going to happen. So that means we have to learn to forgive most of the time before or in the absence of direct apologies from people who offend us. For example, if somebody cuts me off in traffic and makes me slam on my breaks to avoid hitting them, I’ll be mad. That wasn’t right for them to do. I have a grievance with them. But I better not expect to get an apology or for them to seek me out to make things right. If I do, I’ll be pretty miserable because it probably won’t happen. And if you do see somebody get out of their car and come back to your car you better not assume they are coming to say they are sorry! No. I must be able to forgive them whether they ask for forgiveness or not. Now we have to be able to forgive people who sincerely apologize directly to us, but we also have to forgive people who don’t ask for forgiveness. That’s the challenge of forgiveness. How are you at forgiving people? Are you nursing a grudge or grievance against somebody right now that you know you need to forgive? Are you waiting for somebody to apologize before you forgive them? Are you still waiting, and waiting, and waiting? A loving person forgives even if the offending person never asks for forgiveness. That’s not easy, but that’s love.

Second, is there a difference between forgiving and forgetting? 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Here we come to a tough question about the meaning of the passage, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Does it mean that we are supposed to completely forgive and forget? If so, then we are in an impossible situation because I don’t know about you but I can’t erase my memory, I can’t simply just will to forget something because I don’t have control over how my memory operates entirely. It’s a strange thing our memories; scientists don’t completely understand it, how it works, why it works. Sometimes I can suddenly remember the silliest things, and at other times I can forget the most important things. I’ve found that sometimes I can remember the names of people I’ve met just once, and then forget the names of people I’ve know a long time. Memory is strange. I’ve forgotten numbers that are very important, like in high school my locker combination, yet I’ve remembered stupid, trivial numbers like sports statistics! We’ve all experienced that kind of thing with our memories. Now if God is calling us to completely forget offenses against us, then He’s asking the impossible. But that isn’t what He’s doing. “Love keeps no records of wrongs” means “Love forgives the offenses of others so there is no need to keep a record of the wrongs.” Bookkeepers love to keep track of numbers and record things for the future. I hate keeping records of things; I’d make a terrible bookkeeper. But Bookkeepers keep track of records because these are important things to remember; it can save money or provide proof of something for the IRS. But if there is no need to keep track of records, why keep track? Just for the fun of it? No. The only reason we’d keep track of somebody’s offense is to make sure they pay us for it, either in the form of an apology or some other compensation. But if we’ve already settled with them through forgiveness there is really no need to keep a record is there? If you’ve forgiven somebody of something — stop keeping score, stop keeping a record of it. Stop acting as if you might need that record to settle the score. If it’s already settled, stop cluttering up space with the record of the offense. A lot of times we keep a record of wrongs done against us because we really haven’t forgiven the person. Are you keeping score on somebody? Are you keeping records of offenses against you? You need to forgive and stop keeping records. Now there is one exception to this rule and it’s this: if someone is harmful or dangerous to you, you might not want to forget what they’ve done because you might want to be cautious of them doing it again. You still need to forgive, but you might not want to forget until you know it’s safe. For example, we are called to forgive Arab terrorists, but we shouldn’t forget them until they show themselves to be trustworthy. The same with people. If somebody offends you, we must forgive them. But don’t automatically forget them; see if they’ve changed. The same thing with nations. We should forgive the Soviets for their communist aggression; but let’s also keep an eye on them to see if they’ve really changed. We should do that with people too.

Third, how is it possible to forgive? 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Remember Webster’s Dictionary defines forgive as: 1. to cease to feel resentment against an offender, to pardon, 2. to give up resentment of or claim to requital for (an offense), 3. to grant relief from payment of (a debt).” How do we actually learn to forgive? I remember hearing the story of Corrie Ten Boom who was held in a Nazi German concentration camp where her family was killed and where she alone was freed. She tells the story of how she learned to forgive the hated German guards that held her captive. How could she do it? I’m sure you’ve had some bad experiences in your life that make it almost impossible for you to forgive some people. How can you forgive? How can any of us learn to forgive people who offend us? We have to turn to God for help in doing so; specifically we have to turn to Jesus. Why Jesus? Because He paid for all offenses — both ours against God and others against us. We must remember that we’ve offended God time and time again, yet God forgives us on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross as payment. So in the same way, when we think of other people and their offenses against us, we have to turn to Jesus and see in Him the payment for these offenses too. Jesus pays for offenses against us by others; so then things are settled. That’s easier said than done in respect to our emotions, feelings, and thinking, but it’s the truth. It’s how Corrie Ten Boom was able to forgive the German Nazis for their cruelty against her and her family. She forgave them in Jesus’ name. She dropped all grievances and claims against the Nazi guards on the basis of Jesus and the cross. “I pardon you of your sins because God pardons me of my sins through the cross of Christ,” should be our response. None of this is easy. I don’t want to make it sound easy, but it is the truth. If you are harboring resentment towards someone today, if you need to forgive someone today, turn to Jesus for the strength to do it. Remember Christ’s words, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do?” That’s unbelievable that a crucified man could forgive his executioners, but that’s God’s love in action. We need that same love to forgive today, or else we just won’t have the power to do it. We can’t rely on our own natural goodness because if we rely on ourselves we’ll come up with every excuse not to forgive! We need to turn to Jesus and pray, “Jesus, help me to forgive people. I don’t feel like forgiving, I want them to pay; I want compensation for my grievances. But I know that I must forgive, so I ask you to help me forgive. Lord, I forgive (you fill in the blank) for (you fill in the blank). Don’t let me harbor any ill feelings or resentment towards him/her. Thank you God for giving me the capacity to forgive through the cross of Christ. Jesus I love you and give my life to you again today. Forgive my sins and lead me in life. Amen.

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One Response to “Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs”

  1. jd Says:

    Thank you very much. Pray that I forgive. Thanks

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