Sunday, November 23, 2008

Matt's Messages "Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs"

“Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs”
Learning to Love
November 23, 2008
1 Corinthians 13:5

“Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs.”

That’s what Paul says at the very end of verse 5.

“...it [love] keeps no record of wrongs.” It’s the 9th quality that Paul uses to describe love. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.

The King James Version translates this phrase, “Love thinketh no evil.”

The word translated “think” is literally to “reckon” or to count. To reckon the evil.

To think about it, dwell on it, remember it against someone’s account.

Love keeps NO record of wrongs.

The English Standard Version is helpful again here. It translates it: “Love is not resentful.”

It does not keep a grudge.

It does not nurse an old wound.

It does not seek revenge.

Love is not resentful.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Isn’t that a helpful way of thinking about it?

I read an extreme story this week that illustrates this.

There was a “troubled couple who visited a Christian counselor for help. The wife’s physician had advised her to see a counselor because she was developing an ulcer that apparently had no physical cause. During the session, the wife slammed down on the counselor’s desk a manuscript ‘one-inch thick, on 8½ by 11 paper, typewritten on both sides...a thirteen-year record of wrongs that her husband had done to her.’”

Can you imagine?

“The counselor could immediately see that the wife’s resentment of her husband’s many faults and her meticulous documentation of each one had made her bitter. Keeping a record of her husband’s sins had only made matters worse, to the point of causing this woman to become physically ill.” [Quoted in Alexander Strauch’s Leading with Love, pg. 72]

Now, we shake our heads at that because it’s extreme, but we’re all guilty of this kind of behavior, aren’t we?

We might not write them down, but we can keep a list, can’t we?

Sometimes, we tell others what they’ve done wrong–we parade out the list and don’t put it away.

Other times, we keep the list secret from others, but we’re still keeping it.

It amounts to unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness ruins relationships.

Keeping a bitter record of wrongs will undermine any marriage.

It will poison any parenting.

It will destroy any friendship.

Keeping a record of wrongs will kill a business partnership.

It will upset a neighborhood.

It will churn a church inside out.

Unforgiveness ruins relationships.

And bitterness will bite you back.

Often, the person hurt the most by keeping a record of wrongs, is the record-keeper themself.

Can you think about how this plays out in your relationships right now?

Think about your chief enemy right now.

Now, they may be your best friend, too. But they are also your chief enemy right now.

Someone with whom you have a disagreement, or a conflict or that you’re on the opposite of an issue from.

Isn’t it easy to tally up the things they have done to you?

The things they’re doing wrong.

The things they’ve said.

The things that have hurt you.

I’ll bet we could all give a pretty good run-down on that list.

Now, could you go the other way? Could you give a list of the ways that you have offended them? The ways that you have sinned against them in word and deed?

I’ll bet we have a much harder time coming up with an accurate list.

Why is that? Because we’re spring loaded to think much of ourselves and little of others.

But love keeps no record of wrongs. Right?

What’s the opposite of record-keeping?

Forgiveness.

Paul could have said it this way: “Love forgives.”

That’s what he means when he says that love keeps not record of wrongs.

Love forgives.

A few weeks ago, we learned about saying, “I’m sorry.”

“I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

Now, we need to learn to say, “I forgive you.”

Love “keeps short accounts.”

That’s how my wife and I talk about it in our marriage.

We talk about keeping “short accounts,” meaning that when we sin against each other, we quickly move to make it right.

You do know that we sin against each other, right?

I do it more than she does.

But we are both sinners, as are everyone in this room, and we all sin against each other. Every relationship on Earth is sinners relating to other sinners.

The best marriages of the greatest, godliest believers are still two sinners who said, “I do.”

I’m reading a book on marriage right now titled, “When Sinners Say ‘I Do.’” That’s exactly right.

And when I sin against my wife, she is faithful to confront me on it. And then, she’s faithful to forgive me.

Forgiveness is cancelling a debt.

Forgiveness is releasing someone from the debt they created by hurting you.

Not making a record of the debt to continue to hold against them.

Love forgives.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Now, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. Not in the sense of not remembering that the offense ever occurred.

It does mean not remembering it against that person. Not holding it against them. Not keeping a standing record of their wrong–ready to be used against them.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love is not resentful.

Do you know who Clara Barton is? She was the founder of the American Red Cross, the “Angel of the Battlefield” in the Civil War. “Like any prominent person she had critics. When a friend of hers reminded Clara of the criticism someone had made of her work, Clara [claimed she] couldn’t remember it. Surprised, her friend said, ‘You don’t remember it?’ Clara’s response is classic: ‘No, I distinctly remember forgetting it.’” [Strauch, pg. 75]

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Now, is that easy?

No, it’s not. But it’s powerful.

What would happen in our marriages if they were marked by forgiveness?

Keeping short accounts?

What would happen in our families? Brothers and Sisters saying, “I forgive you.”

I will not hold this between us any more.

So many families are wrecked by bitterness and unforgiveness.

But they could just flower into something beautiful if the record of wrongs was crossed out.

What would happen at work?
What would happen in the neighborhood?
What would happen at our schools if forgiveness reigned?

It would change everything.

Now, there are two kinds of forgiveness in the Bible.

There is ATTITUDINAL FORGIVENESS and there is TRANSACTIONAL FORGIVENESS.

The Bible doesn’t use those words, but the concepts are there. Both are called forgiving, but they are forgiving in two different ways.

Attitudinal forgiveness is that forgiving that needs to happen in our hearts regardless of whether or not the other person is repentant. Regardless of whether or not they ask for forgiveness.

We might call it: releasing bitterness. Jesus praying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Even though they weren’t repentant, Jesus was forgiving them.

This includes what we talked about last week: overlooking an offense. It’s a glory to overlook an offense–do it if you can, if the sin will not wreck the relationship or someone else’s relationship–overlook an offense in your heart.

Cross Out the Record of Wrongs.

This also includes those times when someone sins against you, but they won’t repent of it. Those are some of the hardest things to deal with in all of life.

But you can’t let their sin eat you alive!

You’re stance towards them must be LOVE.

Ready to forgive fully. Ready to be reconciled when they are truly repentant–if they ever are.

Releasing bitterness. Keeping no record of wrongs in the sense of not being resentful.

Now, that does not mean don’t hold them accountable. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be a change, sometimes, in the relationship. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences for their misdeeds–especially if they won’t repent of them.

But you can’t let their sin eat you alive.

You’re stance towards them must be LOVE.

It’ll be the toughest form of love for you to maintain, but you can do it in Christ!

I have a friend right now who has been sinned against in a major way–betrayal, really.

But he’s handling it like this. He’s loving his enemies. He’s not keeping a record of wrong.

It’s awesome to watch! It’s beautiful. It’s love!

Transactional Forgiveness is even better.

That’s when the other person is repentant, and you get to reconcile with them!

You get to throw open your arms!

You get to throw away the record book!

Transactional forgiveness is when you get to say, “I forgive you.” And it restores the relationship. It may not be like it was before–it might even be better.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Love forgives.

A few weeks ago, I told you that I needed to talk with someone who had been the victim of sexual abuse. I had to hold an interview with an abuse survivor and talk with them about their experience and how the Bible has or could help them deal with what happened to them.

Thank you to those of you who volunteered.

Heather and I met with one of you.

I had hoped to be an encouragement to you–but you were an encouragement to me.

You were a story of grace.

You see, this person, in our midst suffered many things at the hands the evil people.

But today, this person is not in the grip of bitterness. They are instead, full of grace, full of peace, full of forgiveness.

They still remember what happened to them. But they keep no record of wrongs against those who mistreated them.

It doesn’t make the mistreatment any better.

But it’s beautiful to see. Heather and I came away from that interview so encouraged and blessed!

And I asked this person what made it possible for them to forgive like that?

Do you know what the answer was?

It was the gospel.

It was the good news about Jesus Christ.

It was the Cross of Christ.

They said, “I am forgiven. I can forgive those who hurt me.”

That’s exactly right. The Bible says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Because what we’ve done to God is much worse than what anyone has ever done to us–no matter how bad it is.

And the Cross is God’s instrument of forgiveness for us.

The Bible says that at the Cross, “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

God didn’t keep a record of wrongs with us.

HE CROSSED THE RECORD OUT!

And if we could be forgiven like that, then we can forgive others.

Have you been forgiven like that?

Have you had your record of wrongs nailed to the Cross?

Have you had your record CROSSED out?

If you have never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your King and your Record-Crossing Rescuer, then I invite you to turn from your sins and trust in Him today.

All of your sins, not in part but the whole can be nailed to the Cross and born by you no more.

Jesus offers full forgiveness. Eternal life in Heaven with Him.

Freely given. Freely received–by faith.

And if you have done that, if you believe the gospel, then you are forgiven and can forgive others.

You don’t have to keep a record of wrongs.

We, as Christians, don’t have to keep a record of wrongs.

I think that probably some of us in this room are keeping score.

And we think, somehow, that we have to do it. We have to keep this record or maybe justice won’t be done. Or maybe I won’t get what is due me. Or maybe they won’t get what is due them.

Trust Him.

Throw the record away.

That sin against you will be judged–either in Hell for eternity (perfect justice) or at the Cross–perfect justice and perfect mercy.

Either way, you don’t have to hold onto it. God will take care of it.

Justice will be and will be seen to be done.

Trust Him.

Throw the record away.

And Love! Live in Love.

That’s how He treated you!

God CROSSED OUT your record. You can cross out theirs.

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