Trying to Forgive


by Ps Ian Parker.

I don’t know anyone who finds it easy to forgive. 

Mostly our attempts at forgiveness are conditional.. 

“I’ll forgive you if you show proper remorse .” 

I’ll forgive you when I am able.”  

“I’ll forgive you but …. ”

“I’ll forgive you, but please don’t expect me to treat you the same again.” 

If you were to sit down and make a list of the people you find it hard to forgive, the  list may include a father who walked out on you – someone who abused you – a boss who favoured others and promoted others ahead of you.

Years may have passed but it is still painful today.  

It burns in your gut. 

Someone started a rumour about you and it has dogged your steps ever since. 

A child has broken your heart. 

A pastor or priest has hurt you.  

You can have perfect physical health. and yet be in unbearable pain.

The trigger for the pain is your memory. 

You remember a name – you see a face – someone mentions a place.

Dr. Wilber Penfield, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, said “Your brain contains a permanent record of your past that is like a single, continuous strip of moving film…

The film library records your whole waking life from childhood on.

You can relive those scenes from your past, one at a time…[feeling] exactly the same emotions you did during the original experience.”

Watch the old returned soldiers on Anzac Day.

Years have passed but the memories are still painful years later.

They try to talk but their lip begins to quiver and tears roll down their faces.

We have both good and bad memories.

You remember things – who you were with – what you did – and you even sense the emotion.

Grief, pain and guilt keeps surfacing, and you wonder if you can ever let go of the past.

If only it would stay in the past – but it keeps finding its way into the present.

If you are struggling with unforgiveness and pain from the past, you are not alone.

King David who seemed to handle this so well, in the end failed.

Let me illustrate from a Bible story.


There is a spiteful little bully by the name Shimei – a King David, and his military officer Abishai.

SCENE 1: The first scene opens as David flees from Jerusalem upon the humiliating news that Absalom was challenging him for the throne.

With his royal dignity in the dust, David ran.

As he is running, a relative of Saul’s came running out and pelted the royal party with stones and abuse.   (see 2 Sam 16:5-13)

Abishai was David’s bodyguard and he had a short fuse. 

“Why should this dead dog curse my Lord the king?  Let me go over and cut of his head.” V9. 

This man has always resolved conflict by cutting heads off. 

Every time you face a Shimei there will always be a sword swinger offering to carry out revenge.

David could have smeared him across the landscape like vegemite, but he chose forgiveness and tried to ignore him.

So ends scene one.  A story of amazing forgiveness – David refused to retaliate even though he had the power to do so.

SCENE 2:  Between scene one and scene two Absalom has been defeated – Shimei was betting David would have been defeated and so David sets out toward Jerusalem to reclaim his throne.

Re-enter Shimei the abusive bully. 

Notice this string of panicky verbs (2 Sam 19:14-20)

 “He hurried down to meet David – -they rushed to the Jordan – – they crossed at the ford – – Shimei fell prostrate before the king” and he begs his forgiveness.  

He is in a desperate hurry to make things right. 

When David was down he kicked him as hard as he could but things change with lightning speed. 

Now people swarm out of the villages and stand behind David triumphantly bringing him back to Jerusalem.

Shimei is filled with terror as he sees the might of David and his terror causes him to stutter out a pathetic apology.  “I have sinned..”

Re-enter Abishai. 

His explosive temper erupts.

You can hear his sword being removed from its sheath. V21 “Shouldn’t he be put to death for this?  He cursed the Lords anointed!”  

Come on David he kicked you when you were down give him a taste of his own medicine.  

I can identify with this man – my sword would jump into my hand as well.

David said “Not today let us soak up the atmosphere.

Shimei you will not die.” 23 So the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king promised him on oath.

SCENE 3:  At the end of scenes one and two there appears to be a huge gesture of forgiveness – the same as he had shown to King Saul.

Forgiveness seemed to be a strength he had.

So we are somewhat shocked as we enter Scene 3.

This scene opens in the royal chambers as the aged king lies on his death bed. 

In these final hours he calls his son to his bedside and gives him some wise fatherly advice.

(1 Kings 2:1-3) “Serve God son and be a good man.” And by the way your poor old Daddy has a few more requests.  Make sure you repay Joab for the bad things he did to friends of mine. 

(V8-9) Yes  …..’Remember Shimei who called down bitter curses on me that day, do not consider him innocent.” 

David had a huge  heart and capacity to forgive. 

Now listen to David’s last recorded words. 

“You will know what to do to him.  Bring his grey head down to the grave in blood.” 

We are very complex creatures. 

At times we think we have dealt with something.

Then the person who wounded us springs up and all the pain rushes back.

The capacity to love another person is a gift from God.

It’s part of how God has wired us. 

God has not only given us the capacity to love and feel loved, but also to feel pain.

So how do we deal with the pain?

1. Realise there is a difference between forgiveness and trust.    Trust is earned!

2. Draw close to God.

3. Pray aloud for the person.

When it comes to forgiveness, all of us are beginners.

As long as you are trying to forgive you are forgiving.

It is when you no longer try that bitterness sets in.

Forgiveness has good days and bad days.

That’s OK. Keep trying.

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