Sermon: The Boundaries of Forgiveness - A Biblical Perspective
By Pastor Terry
Today, we are here to talk about one of the most powerful and, at the same time, challenging principles of our Faith: Forgiveness. But what happens when forgiveness intersects with self-preservation and personal safety? How do we navigate these waters when something as sacred as marriage is defiled by abuse? These are the questions we'll tackle today, and I pray that the Holy Spirit guides our understanding.
- Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
- Luke 17:3-4: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
I. The Nature of Forgiveness
**A. Divine Model**
- Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
**Breakdown:** As followers of Christ, we are called to imitate His character. Just as God has forgiven us of our sins, we must extend that same level of forgiveness to others, even when it's complicated. But God's forgiveness also comes with the desire for transformation and repentance; it's not a free pass for continuous harm.
**B. The Freedom in Forgiveness**
- Ephesians 4:31-32: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
**Breakdown:** Holding onto grudges imprisons us in a cycle of negativity. When we forgive, we're not just releasing the other person from their offense but liberating our hearts. Forgiveness is as much for us as it is for the person we're forgiving.
II. The Complexity of Abuse in Marriage
**A. The Sanctity of Marriage**
- Ephesians 5:28-29: “In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”
**Breakdown:** The Bible sets a high bar for marital love. If a husband or wife is abusive, they're not just breaking a social contract; they're violating the sacred marriage covenant. Love should be selfless and nurturing, not harmful or destructive.
**B. Provisions for Extreme Circumstances**
- 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”
**Breakdown:** The apostle Paul acknowledges that there are circumstances where a separation may be necessary for the peace and safety of the believer. If the essence of marriage, which is mutual love and respect, is broken, the Bible doesn't demand one to remain in an unsafe environment.
II. Setting Boundaries: When Forgiveness and Safety Co-exist
**A. Protection of the Abused**
- Psalm 82:3-4: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
**Breakdown:** God calls us to defend those who are marginalized and oppressed. This divine mandate extends to protecting oneself when one is the victim of abuse.
**B. Forgiveness Does Not Equate to Endangerment**
- Proverbs 22:3: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”
**Breakdown:** Wisdom involves discerning when to draw lines for your own well-being. Forgiveness is an Emotional and Spiritual act; it doesn’t require you to remain in physical proximity to someone who puts you at risk.
As we close, remember that forgiveness and self-protection are not contradictory but can co-exist. God calls us to forgive, but He also gives us wisdom to know when boundaries are necessary. We can release the burden of anger and hatred without compromising our safety or well-being.
**Invitation & Prayer**
Now, I'd like to open the floor for prayer requests, particularly for those struggling with the challenge of Forgiveness in complicated relationships. Let us end with a prayer for wisdom, for healing, and the strength to forgive while holding fast to the sanctity of our well-being.
*** I hope this sermon adds depth to each point while providing a Biblical perspective.