RESET: Resetting Your Mission
RESET: Resetting Your Leadership
RESET: Resetting Your Relationships
RESET: Resetting Your Priorities
RESET: More of God
Are there relationships in your life in need of a reset? In the third week of our Reset series, David Penuel shows us what God’s word has to say about “resetting relationships” and how we can reset our relationships with forgiveness and amends.
Good morning, everybody. Let's just acknowledge that Todd's return got more clapping than me preaching this morning. That hurt, but I forgive you. And that's what we're talking about this morning. I want to start off with a question. Do you remember the first time someone hurt you? For me, it was in fourth grade. I'm sure I was hurt before that, but my first memory was in fourth grade. In fourth grade, I had a best friend named Sean.
Here's the kind of best friends we were. We were the kind of best friends who would call one another on our landline on Thursday night before school on Friday and coordinate our outfits. Sean and I, in fourth grade, had matching white button-up Ralph Lauren shirts, and we would wear those most every Friday with the top two buttons unbuttoned and a gold chain. That's the kind of best friends we were. Sleepovers, play dates, just everything everywhere, always together.
Toward the end of fourth grade, we had a field trip, and on our field trip we were having lunch out at a park, and this park had a swing set. Sean and I were playing on the swing set, doing what every fourth grader does, which is called underdogs, where one gets on the swing set, the other one pulls them back and runs underneath and swings them up super high, and then you swing back, you get the momentum, and you jump and fly through the air.
Everybody had gathered around watching Sean and me, because we were the best at underdogs, and I was the farthest jumper. We were showing off, impressing everybody, and then Sean had this bright idea. He wanted to take it up a notch. Sean said, "David, I've got an idea. Let's do something that has never been done before in the history of humankind. Let's do a standing underdog. Just think about how far you could jump if you were jumping off the swing off your feet."
I said, "Sean, I don't think the physics work out on that, and I'm not going to do it." Then Sean turned to the crowd and said, "Do you want to see David do a standing underdog?" Of course, the crowd erupted. So, reluctantly, peer pressured, I stood up on the swing. I was like, "Okay. We can do this." But then, as soon as Sean grabbed my feet and pulled me back and I was about horizontal to the ground, I realized, "This probably isn't going to go well."
Sean runs as fast as he can and throws my feet as hard as he can into the air. You can guess what happened. My feet went over my head, the chains got slackened, my hands jerked off the chains, and I landed flat on my back on the ground. Instantly, the wind came out. My head snapped back and hit the ground. All of a sudden, my head is throbbing, and I'm lying there in intense pain.
My eyes are closed, and I'm picturing, "Wow! The whole class is going to gather around. Sean is going to come up and get down on his knees. 'Are you okay, David?' And everybody is going to take care of me." But when I opened my eyes, I saw Sean bent over, hands on his knees, laughing. No one had come to my aid, but everyone else was laughing at me as well.
In that moment, the hurt I felt, both physical pain but also the betrayal of my friend, turned to anger. I got up off the ground, I clenched my fists, and I didn't walk, I ran toward my best friend Sean Wells. I pulled back my hand, and as I ran toward him, I remember… It was that many years ago in fourth grade. I remember the look in his eyes, where his laughter all of a sudden turned to fear and he realized, "My best friend is about to punch me in front of everybody."
When I saw that look in his eyes… I'd never punched anybody before in my life. I ran up to him, and just before, I stopped my feet, I opened my fist, and I slapped him. All the laughter ceased. Everyone is standing around, and it's silent. We're nose to nose, Sean Wells and me. He goes, "Did you just slap me?" Then everyone started laughing again. I turned around and walked away in shame. I remember tears filling my eyes.
I didn't just walk away from that interaction; I walked away from that friendship. It was the end of the school year. That summer, we normally would have spent every day together. I just let the friendship fade away. Sean and I completely lost contact. We went to fifth grade together, we went to junior high together, we went to high school together, and I honestly cannot recall speaking another word to my best friend.
Why do I start there today? Today is the third part of our Reset series. I'm going to be talking about what God's Word has to say about resetting our personal relationships. We've talked about resetting our view of God and resetting our priorities, and today we're talking about resetting our relationships. I think there's a pretty good chance… Maybe it doesn't date back to fourth grade, but there's a pretty good chance that every single one of you has at least one relationship that's in need of reset right now.
Maybe it's something in your family. Maybe your marriage is in need of a reset or maybe it's your relationship with one of your children. We just spent time with our families over Christmas. Maybe it's with a family member, a parent or an aunt or an uncle or a cousin. That relationship is in need of a reset. Single people, maybe you're not getting along too well with your roommates right now and there's a friendship that needs reset or you have an ex who hurt you and broke your heart or did you wrong in that relationship. There's not peace there in that relationship.
Maybe there's stuff going on at work, whether it's a coworker or a boss, and that relationship needs a reset…somewhere where someone has hurt you or maybe you've harmed someone else. Maybe someone has offended you with what they've said or thought about politics or about race or about COVID and that relationship is in need of a reset. I think this is a sermon we all need to hear. If you can't think of anything right now, any relationship where there's any friction or lack of peace, just wait. It's coming this week, probably, or this month.
So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you the sermon in a sentence. This is my thesis statement. It will carry throughout, and I'll summarize it at the end in two foundational Scriptures on which this idea is built. Here is the sermon in one sentence: God went to great lengths to make peace with us, and he calls us to go to great lengths to make peace with one another.
This is what we just sang about this morning. This is why we come to church: there is a God who has gone to great lengths to make peace with us. We're a group of people who realize we are sinners who have been separated from God, and ultimately, we know we will die. We fear what will happen after death when we meet our Maker in judgment, but we're here because we've heard this good news that God has grace and mercy toward us and he sent his Son Jesus to die.
This Jesus was God's idea from the very beginning when he covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve. when he provided a way out for Noah, when he sent the prophets and the kings, when he made a covenant with the patriarchs, when he sent his Son Jesus and when Jesus died for us on the cross, when Jesus rose from the dead, when Jesus left us the Spirit of God, when he established the church to strengthen us, when he gave us his Word, and when he gave us his promises of his return and a description of heaven and eternity.
God has gone to great lengths to give us peace in our hearts with him. Then, as his children, those of us who have understood that and are following him, he calls us now to go to great lengths…it's not easy, people…to make peace with one another. This idea comes from Jesus' first and longest recorded sermon in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, chapter 5.
First, let me start in Romans 5:1. Romans 5:1 illustrates the great lengths God has gone to that I just described. "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God…" I hope everyone in this room knows that: we can have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
That being true, now it takes us to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 where Jesus simply says, "Blessed are the peacemakers…" "I made peace with you, so now you make peace with one another." "…for they will be called children of God." If we are children of God, we should follow his example. He made peace with us; we make peace with one another.
Here's where we're going to go with the rest of our time together today. We're going to talk about how we can reset our relationships with forgiveness and how we can reset our relationships with amends. I know this to be true. I've worked here long enough and interacted with enough people. I think all of us want there to be peace in our relationships. We want there to be healing where something has been broken.
But here's the pattern I've observed: Everybody wants that, but very few people know what to do. They don't know how to reset their relationships. These two simple ideas will take us really far toward resetting our relationships. We can reset relationships with forgiveness, and we can reset relationships with amends. We're going to spend the majority of our time on forgiveness, so let's get started.
I want you to think about how you feel when someone treats you poorly. When someone hurts you or harms you or treats you poorly, if you're like me, your first instinct in response isn't like, "Awesome! This is a chance to forgive." My first response is, "This demands justice." I was trying to think of an example, and I thought about driving, how someone does you wrong on the road and what your first response is.
As I was reviewing what I was going to share this morning with some friends, they gave me some feedback. They were like, "That's a weak example. Why don't you talk about something more personal? How have you been wounded?" I just had to pause and reflect. These are some general categories I came up with. I wrote them down, and I want to share them with you. These are ways people have treated me poorly.
I've experienced times when someone I really trusted and depended on lied to me. Have you? I've experienced someone I esteemed and looked up to being condescending and invalidating toward me, and it hurt. I have felt like I've been denied the affirmation and emotional support I desperately long for and think every human deserves, and I've experienced many circumstances where others have spoken poorly about me in ways that felt unfair and hurtful.
Whenever I experience these things, my instinct isn't forgiveness; it's justice. Here's what I mean by that: I become bitter and angry. I want to point out the wrong that was done. I want to speak harshly to or about the person who has hurt me. I want to maybe even pay them back in some way. Sometimes, like I did with Sean, at the end of it all, I just want to run and hide and deny the pain. The point is my default (and I think, for many of us, our default) is not forgiveness.
It has been said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick or unforgiveness is like a cage that locks you into the negativity of the past and hinders you from moving forward into positivity in the future. My default, though, is unforgiveness. My default is drinking poison and staying locked in a cage, but God's Word says something different.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to a church where there were some in the church who needed to reset their relationships. I want to show you what Paul says in Ephesians 4:31-32. He says, "Get rid of your default, David." "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God [who went to great lengths to make peace with you] through Christ has forgiven you." He gives us an alternative to the poison, a key to the cage: forgiving others the way God has forgiven us.
Paul talked again in another Scripture that will help us define forgiveness and know how to do it. In Romans 12:17-19, a letter to another church, Paul says, "Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God." I think this is a really important key: understanding that there is a God who possesses righteous anger toward sin, especially sin that hurts and harms you. "For the Scriptures say, 'I will take revenge; I will pay them back,'says the Lord ."
In God's Word, we see that in our personal relationships, God calls us to forgiveness, not justice. Here's what I think is a really good definition of forgiveness: forgiveness is a decision, and it's a decision to trust God with justice and vengeance. As we just saw in Romans, chapter 12, Christian forgiveness is built on this foundational belief that God will execute justice for all sin.
Whatever someone has done to you, you can believe that God is going to make it right. Now, it might not be the way you want him to. It might not be an eye for an eye right here on this earth, but rest assured, God's Word shows us that God will make it right. I want to make it really simple for you. God makes all sin right in one of two ways.
First, the person who harmed you or sinned will come to understand the grace of God and the love of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ, the great lengths God went to to make peace with them. They will come to God and ask him for the forgiveness of their sins, and the punishment they deserve will be transferred onto the death of God himself, Jesus Christ. So, God will account for their sin and the harms they've done toward you on the person of Jesus Christ on their behalf if they come to know him and put their faith in him.
The alternative is that one day they will die, just like all of us will, and if they don't put their faith in Christ, they will meet their Maker, and he will execute justice, a righteous anger, that is far more severe than any payback we could give them on this earth. The book of Matthew calls it an unquenchable fire. It's an eternity in hell, not something we would ever wish on anyone, even our worst enemy.
So, once we understand that justice is best served in God's hands, we can let it go. We don't have to be upset, bitter, angry, or vengeful anymore. Here's the cool part: we can actually begin to love the people who have hurt us. I want to pause here. I actually wrote down exclamation points on my page because I want to make sure I insert this here.
Forgiving people who have hurt us can be a sensitive subject. I know many of you have experienced trauma and abuse in your life. Some of you might rightly question whether or not you can trust my words because I have not experienced what you have experienced. That is fair and understandable, but please don't reject the concept of forgiveness. I believe there is freedom there for you in this concept of forgiveness.
I want to share with you an example of someone who can relate to significant trauma. I'm going to introduce you to a person named Corrie ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom lived in the 1940s. She was a Dutch woman. She and her family bravely hid Jewish refugees from the Nazis during World War II, but their family was found out, and they were captured and taken, along with the Jews, to a concentration camp.
There they were mistreated. They were denied food. They were denied clothes. They were denied comfort. They were denied even their companionship with one another, as one after another died. In the concentration camp, Corrie ten Boom watched her father die, her brother die, and her sister die at the hands of her Nazi captors, but she survived. After the war, Corrie ten Boom went around to different churches and shared her inspirational story of survival, of endurance and faith.
One day, she was at this church in Munich, Germany, and while she was teaching, she looked out at the crowd. She was sharing her story, and she recognized a face. She'd recognize that face anywhere because it was the face of one of the Nazi guards who was in the camp her family was held in. It was actually a guard who contributed to the death of her sister. So, she finished up her story. She tried to be the least distracted as possible. The room emptied out and cleared out.
One person remained, and it was that guard. As he approached her to have a confrontation, I'm going to pick up the story in a paraphrase of Corrie ten Boom's own words. "After clearing through the crowd, the former guard walked up to me and thanked me for sharing my story. He told me that he had been a Nazi guard but had become a Christian after the war. It was clear that he did not recognize me, but he reached out his hand and surprised me by asking for forgiveness.
In that moment, I stood there frozen. How could I possibly forgive this man? My sister Betsie had died in that place. Did he think he could erase her slow, terrible death simply by asking? I could feel coldness clutching my heart." This is the poison of unforgiveness. She was tempted to stay in that cage. Listen to what she says next.
"But forgiveness is not an emotion. I knew that. Forgiveness is a decision, an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. As he stood there waiting, I began to silently pray. I asked God to remind me of his justice and also his mercy. I asked him to remove the cold unforgiveness from my heart.
In what felt like an eternity, I reached out and grabbed his hand. With tears in my eyes, I said, 'Yes. I forgive you,' and I called him 'Brother.' For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner." I love the way she ends this. She said, "I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then." That's my heart and my desire for you guys: that you would never know God's love so intensely as you do in the moments when you forgive.
Now, that story happened back in the 1940s in Munich, Germany, but let's bring it right here, right now, today. What if the person who hurt you the most was in this room today and you didn't know it, but when you walked out those doors, they were standing right there by the doors waiting for you and you had the same interaction Corrie ten Boom had?
Would you be ready to forgive and experience the intense love of God the way Corrie ten Boom did? I want to tell you right now how you can do that, how you can be ready to forgive and to know the love of God more intensely than maybe ever before. Just like Corrie ten Boom did in those moments of silence, all forgiveness starts with a prayer…something that happens vertically between you and God, not something that happens horizontally between you and the other person.
Let me go back to her words. She said, "As he stood there waiting, I began to silently pray. I asked God to remind me of his justice and also his mercy. I asked him to remove the cold unforgiveness from my heart." All forgiveness starts with a prayer. Maybe you're not sure what would happen if you bumped into that person, but you know what will happen if you pray to God. So let's start with a prayer.
Here's what I've done. I've written out, and I want to share with you a prayer I've prayed many, many times when people have hurt me. I'm going to put it up on the screen, and I'm going to invite you right now as I read through it to insert someone's name. Insert a situation into it. There are blanks. Pray this with me. Obviously, we're not going to do this all out loud. Just quietly to yourself, between you and God. Something that happens vertically between you and God.
Here's the prayer: "Dear God, I have been hurt by [fill in the blank]." "My husband who betrayed me by looking at pornography. My friend who abandoned me for another friend group. My boss who has mistreated me at work. The ex who broke my heart. The parent who let me down." Whatever it is, fill in the blank.
"I've been hurt by them. I believe you care about my pain, so I'm asking for comfort and healing. I know that I am a sinner and my sins deserve punishment, but you forgave me through Jesus Christ, so I choose to forgive [fill in the blank]. I trust you for justice. I surrender my desires for justice and vengeance to you. Help me now to know your love more intensely and…" This is the tough part of the prayer. "…to share your love with [fill in the blank]. In Jesus' name, amen."
Last time I sat down and took an inventory of people who had harmed me, I prayed this prayer, inserting different things in the blanks, 14 different times. I went back and counted. Now, quickly, before we move on to the idea of amends, I want to remind you of something that has been taught here before, but maybe you haven't had the chance to hear it. As a reminder, every time we teach on this stage on the weekend, there are sermon notes that are available the week after online. This will be in the sermon notes if you want to go back and review.
Sometimes we have a block toward forgiveness because we think forgiveness is something it isn't. Now remember. I defined forgiveness for you as simply a decision to entrust justice and vengeance to God. It's something that happens vertically between you and God. But we can get mixed up, and we think forgiveness is other things because of wrong things we've heard before, so I want to be very clear with you this morning on seven things forgiveness is not. So here you go. I'm going to crank through them quickly.
Forgiveness is not excusing. There's no excuse for sin, and God will make sure all sin is paid for.
Forgiveness is not denial. You don't pretend you have not been hurt. You can honestly bring your pain to God.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. We heard this in Corrie ten Boom's story. Forgiveness is a decision you can make no matter how you feel.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. We frequently hear, and maybe we've even told other people, "Forgive and forget." But in order to forgive, you must remember the offense in light of God's justice and the cross and God forgiving you. You don't have to forget wrongs that have been done in order to forgive.
Forgiveness is not trust. Forgiving a past offense doesn't mean someone is trustworthy in the future. Forgiving a past offense doesn't mean someone is trustworthy to not hurt you or offend you again in the future. Forgiveness is a gift you can give someone in a moment, but trust must be earned. It's okay for it to take some time for trust to be rebuilt.
Forgiveness is not optional if you're a Christian. God commands us to forgive, and refusing to forgive is rebellion against God.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation. It doesn't promise to completely heal the relationship. Forgiveness is only one part of resetting a broken relationship. Reconciliation takes action from both sides, but forgiveness is between you and God. It's getting rid of the poison. It's getting you out of the cage. So that's how you forgive.
Let's talk about what you do with the damage you have done. What can you do about the people you have hurt? Second was we can reset our relationships through amends. I want you to think about not how you feel when someone wrongs you but how you feel when someone thinks you have wronged them, when someone has something against you.
Unfortunately, this happens to me all the time. I've broken trust and I've caused harm in many ways. Mostly, I hurt people with my thoughtless words and with my tone, and mostly it's with the people closest to me…my wife, my kids, my coworkers, my close friends. Those are the people I hurt the most because I have the most time with them.
Let me share with you a quick story. There are, like I said, many times, and there are examples even from this past week, but this is kind of a bigger one that I think illustrates this point. It happened over a year ago, but it's one that's really memorable in our family. Pre-COVID, we were at a soccer game. It was 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday night, and we were at a soccer game with three children and my wife. Because it was at that time frame on a Thursday night, we hadn't eaten dinner.
So, the game is over. Everyone is hungry. The youngest child, 7-year-old girl, starts coughing in the car. We check her. She feels warm like she might have a fever, and we're like, "Oh man. This is terrible." She's sitting behind me, so she's coughing on the back of my neck. The other two boys are fighting or arguing about something. The older one is being rude about something the younger one has done.
So, we pull over on our way home at CVS to get the youngest one some cough medicine, and I decide I'll stay in the car and my wife is going to run into CVS. The kids are driving me nuts…daughter coughing on my neck, boys fighting. My wife is inside CVS for three minutes. How long does it take to buy cough syrup? She's in CVS for five minutes. She's in CVS for seven minutes. It feels like an eternity.
The kids are frustrating me to the point where I turn around. I look at the little one. No lie. "Stop coughing!" I told her to stop coughing in that tone of voice. "You two, I don't want to hear another word from you until we get home! Do you understand?" I snap at my kids in a rude tone of voice, not understanding what's going on. "Just shut up and leave hungry Dad alone."
I'm frustrated with my wife because she has left me out here to try to manage these ruffians, so I say, "Stay in the car. I'm going in to get your mom." I walk into CVS. There's one employee. Thanks, CVS. We could do with more than one. There's a line. My wife is third in line. There's like three or four people behind her. Picture this. I walk in the door of CVS. She's across the way right there in the front, lined up. I shout, "What's taking so long?"
The person at the counter looks over and is like, "What is your problem? I'm going as fast as I can." She's checking people out. Everyone else in line looks at my wife like, "I am sorry you are married to him." She just kind of holds up the thing and is like, "There's a line." Then I storm back out to the car, the silent car, because they'd better stay silent. Awesome dad moment. I caused harm to my three kids and to my wife. I talked down to them, embarrassed them.
Do you know how I want to respond? I want to shift the blame. "You know, I wouldn't have had to take that tone if you hadn't been so loud and annoying and coughing on my neck. I wouldn't have had to come into CVS if you would have gotten the cough syrup faster and gotten to the register faster." I want to shift the blame. I want to make excuses. "Look. What do you expect? I was hungry. I'd just coached a soccer game. Give me a break."
I want to compare and minimize. "Honey, look. I know you were annoyed I came into CVS, but I didn't cuss. I never cussed at the kids. I didn't cuss at you. Other people cuss. I didn't throw anything. I could have knocked over a rack. I didn't do that. I wanted to." I compare my offense and minimize it.
Do you know what else I did? My wife got back in the car. Imagine the drive back to the house. Total silence. In my head I'm going, "Maybe we can just pretend like that didn't happen, and then we'll eat dinner and play a game, or something, and we're good." That's what I tend to do, but here's what God's Word tells me to do. Back to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus' first and longest sermon. Look at these words of Jesus from verses 23 and 24.
"So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple…" So, if you're going to church and worshiping. "…and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you…" That you hurt your wife and kids, let's say. "…leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God."
Then Jesus picks up this idea a few chapters later in the same sermon, in Matthew 7:3-5. He starts off in chapter 5, and he goes, "Prioritize peace in your relationships over worship, because remember, I've gone to great lengths to make peace with you and I've called you to make peace with one another. Don't come and try to worship me for going to great lengths to make peace with you while you're not doing that with one another."
Then in chapter 7 he says, "And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye…" How loud your kids were, how slow your wife was. "…when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, 'Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye."
Here's what we see Jesus saying: God calls us to do our part to make things right. This is the action we call amends. Let me give you a definition of amends. Amends is doing our part to repair the damage of our sin. Amends is seeing the log in our own eye, drawing a circle around ourselves and working on everything inside that circle. It's identifying the thing you've done wrong that's in need of reset.
I believe we all have people today who have something against us, so I want to challenge you to reflect for a moment and think about any relational damage you have caused. Let me give you some prompts. Where have you broken trust by not keeping your word? Where have you caused emotional pain through impatience or unkindness or thoughtless words? What abuse have you committed…physical, sexual, or emotional abuse? What debt do you owe because of theft or damage? What social friction have you created through gossip or slander or conflict avoidance?
Guys, when we recognize that people have stuff against us, that we have a log in our eye, what do we do? What does amends actually look like? How do we get the log out? I said forgiveness starts with something that happens vertically between you and God, and amends is something that happens horizontally between you and another person. It's a conversation.
What I had to do when we got home was, first, I was hungry, so I had to eat a snack, but then I had to call the family together, sit everybody down on the couch, and I had to make amends. I had to do my part to repair the damage of my sin. So, I sat the family down, and I'm going to give you something I learned here. I think it's really helpful. It's five A's that can inform an amends conversation.
The first one is admit your wrong. "Hey, guys, that tone I used, getting out of the car and yelling at Mom in front of everybody at CVS, telling my daughter to stop coughing? That was wrong. I was impatient, I was angry, and I should not have treated you that way." Secondly, apologize. "I'm sorry. I'm grieved. It makes me sad that you might now walk on eggshells around your dad, fearing whenever I will pop off like that the next time, or you think I'm unfair or unjust in the way I treated you. I embarrassed you in front of other people at CVS. Who knows who was in there? That was terrible, and I'm sorry. I'm grieved."
Thirdly, ask for forgiveness. "Guys, will you forgive me? Will you believe that Jesus died for that sin too and extend me grace? Fourthly, I accept the consequences. I know you might be a little skittish around me tonight. You might not be as comfortable or enthusiastic about playing a game with me or letting me come sit by your bedside at bedtime. It grieves me, but I know that might be the case.
Lastly, guys, I'm going to try to change. I'm going to alter my behavior. I don't want to do that again, and if I do, I don't want to have a whole silent car ride home. I want to stop right there in the moment as soon as I realize I've done it, and I want to start this process of apologizing and asking for forgiveness and admitting that I was wrong. I want to do it differently next time." I think all of us can do this. We all have people who have something against us.
In a minute, I'm going to give you one more real-life example of amends in action, but first let's just review where we've been today. We started off with this: God went to great lengths to make peace with us, and he calls us to go to great lengths to make peace with one another. We can do two things to do that, guys. We can reset relationships with forgiveness, and we can reset relationships with amends. Forgiveness and amends…something that happens vertically between us and God and something that happens horizontally between us and another person.
We defined forgiveness as a decision to trust God with justice and vengeance, and we defined amends as doing our part to repair the damage of our sin. So, I want to give you guys an application, a little exercise we can all do. I hope you all do it. It might feel kind of silly, but it's really practical, and I think it helps you put these things into action.
If you have a journal right now, find a blank page. You can do this with any piece of paper when you get home. I want you to draw the outline of a cross where there's space in the middle. You'll see it up on screen. On the vertical beam, I want you to write "forgiveness" or "forgive," and I want you to write a list of all of the names of people who have harmed you, who have hurt you, who you feel bitterness or resentment or anger or you desire vengeance toward. Write down all of the names.
Then on the horizontal beam, because amends is a conversation that happens with us and other people, write the names of people you think might have something against you, someone you know you might have caused harm to or you know you have hurt with your words or actions or even absence.
I want you to look at that cross and remember the great lengths God went to to make peace with us and then challenge yourself to go to great lengths to make peace with others by praying forgiveness prayers to God about the people who have hurt you and by initiating conversations with the people who have something against you. Guys, don't overcomplicate this. Start with the easiest, most obvious ones, and then work your way from there.
I started off with a story of my friend Sean. A couple of years ago, I was leading a Bible study with some seventh-grade boys, and I told that story. They were like, "Well, did you make amends with Sean?" I was like, "No." So I found Sean on Facebook, and here is our exchange. "Hey, man, haven't seen or spoken to you in a long time. This is totally random, but I've been meaning to touch base with you about something.
For the last nine years, I've been serving as a youth pastor in Dallas, Texas. In January, I was leading a Bible study with seventh-grade boys about friendship, and we were looking at several passages in the Bible talking about conflict. We observed most people have a history of soured or dead friendships because we avoid conflict.
The guys began to ask me a lot of questions about my pattern of soured or dead friendships. How many could I remember? What caused them to break down? Etcetera. Anyway, I told them about how I remember being good friends with you in fourth grade. I also remember very vividly getting into an altercation with you around a swing set on some kind of field trip, and I remember lashing out and actually hitting you.
I don't think it hurt you, because I remember being humiliated when you laughed at me and everyone else around laughed also. Regardless of whether or not I hurt you, it was a horrible thing for me to do. After that our friendship ended, and I avoided resolving the conflict. In our Bible study, we talked about the importance of working through conflict with friends by: 1) admitting your wrong; 2) apologizing; and 3) asking for forgiveness.
The seventh-grade boys challenged me and told me they thought I should contact you and apologize. I thought it was a silly idea, because they're seventh-grade boys, but I told them I'd think about it. Well, I thought about it, and I realized it couldn't hurt. So, I was wrong to hit you back then. I'm truly sorry I was a punk, and I'm sorry I ruined our friendship.
I was hoping you could accept my apology and forgive me, both for being a jerk and avoiding conflict resolution. Thank you for reading this. I know it's really random, and I hope all is well with you and your family. David. P.S. If you're curious, below is a link to the discussion guide we used in our Bible study."
Here's what's crazy, guys. I just took a step of obedience and tried to live out what God's Word says to do. It was this silly thing I easily could have forgotten about back in fourth grade, but I took a step. Just a few minutes later, I got a response from Sean. Here's what he said:
"David, it's great to hear from you. I've always told people throughout my life about my childhood buddy: you. We had all kinds of fun. Honestly, I don't remember the altercation, but I do know we lost contact somewhere, and I always regretted that. Regardless, no harm done. It's great to hear from you. I hope all is well. Keep in touch."
Sean and I are not besties. He's not wearing this shirt this morning. We're not matching. But there's peace in our relationship, and for years and years and years there wasn't. It was just because of this simple act. Guys, this is just one small example between two people.
I have to be honest and confess. When I'm preparing this message, here's what I'm praying and hoping: "God, maybe you could use this message to make Republicans and Democrats get along and we could heal all of the wounds of racism in our country. Lord, maybe people will agree on masks or no masks and distancing and opening schools. I mean, if we could just figure this out, maybe it would solve all of the world's problems."
If I'm honest, I don't think I can accomplish that with this sermon. Maybe I can't bring political parties together or heal wounds that have been caused through the centuries, but here's what I can do. I can reset my personal relationships. I can forgive people who have hurt me, and I can make amends for wrongs I have done. You can too.
Then I thought about this. What if everybody who heard this message did that? You drew a cross. You forgave people. You made amends. I think it would change our community. It would change our church. It would change our relationships. What if in doing that there was something different about us, where others we were interacting with were like, "Why are you going to such great lengths to try to make peace in this relationship? Sending a Facebook message 20 years after the fact?"
And then we had the opportunity to tell them about our God who went to great lengths to make peace with us and maybe more people knew about our God, knew about our Jesus, because of the way we made the effort to go to great lengths to make peace with them. I want to pray that you would remain convicted and that you would move forward and take action on this message. Let's pray.
Dear Lord, I thank you that you have gone to great lengths to make peace with us. First, I just want to pray for any in this room who don't have peace with you, who aren't sure whether or not, if they died today, they would face your judgment or they would face your welcoming into eternity.
I pray they would have clarity today through the songs we sang and the Scriptures and the words that were spoken that you're not done with them and that you've gone to great lengths to make peace with them, to forgive them for their sins; that you have paid for their sins in the person of Jesus Christ. I pray that if any have not put their faith in that, they would put their faith in that today.
For those of us who do know you and have put our faith in you, I pray we would represent you as your children in the way we live with one another. If anyone has thought of a harm that has been done to them today that they need to forgive, I pray you would give them the courage to bring that to you and trust you with it.
For any in this room today who thought of a harm they have done, a way they have disrupted a relationship and broken peace, I pray you would give them the courage and the boldness to make amends, the humility to do that. I pray there would be healing. Ultimately, I pray that you would be glorified. Lord, would you stir in our hearts as we sing this song? Let us honor and glorify you as we do. Amen.