The Vine

Sermon Series: Jesus in the Present Tense

Date: February 23, 2020 / Speaker: Spencer Smith

Sermon Discussion

Myths of Forgiveness #3

May 16, 2021

Gathering Question      

  • Who is the first person who comes to mind when you hear the phrase “sincere love”?  What is special about their love?

Gathering Prayer

What stood out to you in the sermon? What insights did you gain? What questions did it raise?

Does it surprise you that forgiveness doesn’t always lead to reconciliation and healing of the relationship? Why? Why not?

In Romans 12:9-13, Paul says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

These verses describe sincere love.

  • What catches your attention in these verses?
  • Which parts of the description inspire you or challenge you?

Paul continues on saying, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

  • How do you feel when you read that?
  • Why is it so hard to bless those who persecute us?
  • How might blessing those who persecute us transform our relationship with them?
  • How will blessing them transform us, even if it doesn’t change our relationship with them?

What does the instruction to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” say to us about:

  • Our attitude on social media?
  • Our political conversations and the way we think of those with differing political perspectives?
  • How can we, as Christians, help improve these interactions?

Paul continues, saying, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” 

Paul says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil,” “Do not take revenge” and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

  • Why is the desire for revenge often so tempting? What do we hope to gain by getting revenge?
  • How is the desire for revenge dangerous for our spiritual health?
  • Revenge isn’t always big and obvious; sometimes it’s very small and subtle. What are some subtle ways we can seek to repay evil with evil?

Revenge creates a cycle of evil.

  • How is it helpful to recognize that revenge creates a cycle of evil?
  • How will our relationships be different if we break that cycle by “overcoming evil with good”? What makes that so difficult? What are the benefits?
  • How do God’s grace and mercy empower us to break the cycle of evil that revenge creates?

In Matthew 5, Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

  • How do you feel when someone has hurt you and you know they don’t feel any remorse or regret for what they did?
  • How does that make Jesus’ teaching so hard to fulfill?
  • Why do you think Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us even when they don’t regret what they did?
  • How do you think Jesus expects us to fulfill such a difficult teaching?

Paul concludes by saying, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We are not responsible for how other people handle conflict. We are only responsible for how we respond.

  • How is this freeing?
  • How does this challenge us to rise above the behaviors and responses of others?
  • How does this help us accept situations where others may be unwilling or unprepared to reconcile with us?
  • How can God provide peace for us, even when reconciliation isn’t possible?

Closing Prayer    

Take time for each person to offer their own silent prayer to God.

Ask God to fill you with sincere love for your family and friends, and also for those you find difficult to love. Ask God to set you free from the desire for revenge. Give thanks for God’s free gift of grace and mercy through Jesus. Ask God for that same grace and mercy to forgive others.