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Will You Forgive?

Our ability to forgive starts with realizing we are forgiven.

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Anybody you're having a hard time with these days? Ever forgiven anybody who doesn't deserve it? If so, this sermon's for you. And if you've never done that, this sermon's really for you.

Forgiveness is a strange topic today. David Wells has observed that our society seems to have almost erased the idea from among us. He writes, "Those who inhabit this self-world look only for therapy, not for forgiveness and regeneration. Recovery, in fact, is their way of speaking about regeneration. It's all about human technique and not about miraculous intervention."

While I have the highest regard for Professor Wells and his observations, I'm not sure that, at least on a personal level, forgiveness and the issues surrounding it can be obliterated or erased or replaced. We speak of nursing a grudge because we like—we can even grow to love—our resentments. We can hold them close to our hearts. We feel it would be unjust, even wrong, to forgive people in some circumstances, so we wouldn't want to do them that injustice of forgiving them, letting them get off scot-free.

For many, personal experience affords examples of forgiveness that are difficult, even wrenching, even seemingly impossible—that show the difficulty of forgiving and the difficulty of being the one who is forgiven. There are, in fact, even religions that teach that such forgiveness is wrong. There are philosophies, ancient philosophies, nineteenth-century philosophies, modern day philosophies, that teach that forgiveness is nothing but despicable weakness.

For still others, forgiveness is a topic filled with pain because we know we need to be forgiven and we're not, or we know that we should forgive and we don't. According to the Bible's presentation ...

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Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and executive director of 9Marks Ministries.

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