That was the last word that Jesus left to the disciples, the last message that he gave to the disciples, you know, when people leave or die, they often leave a last message and they don’t just say casual thing. So they say the most important thing, this is the message that I want you to remember, and then live out this message. And that’s what, people do when they speak the last message. And there was last message that Jesus spoke to the disciples. And that was this message. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiving them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Forgiveness. Forgive one another. That is the last word Jesus taught the disciples. Nothing in life is more important than forgiveness. Doesn’t matter what you do. The most important thing that Jesus thought about his life was forgiveness.
There is no Future Without Forgiveness
That’s why he even died on the cross to give us forgiveness. Desmond Tutu, a South African Nobel Prize winner said, “in South Africa, there would have been no future without forgiveness.” When apartheid was terminated, he saw the danger in crisis of the country being totally paralyzed. If the people chose the way of retaliation, they could easily go into the way of retaliation and he saw the danger and crisis of his own country through his skin. He felt that, but they chose the way of forgiveness. The film invictus capture the sentiment very well. Blacks in South Africa hated their only a rugby team. The Springboks, they wanted to scrap the Springboks because the team was mostly white and it represented prejudice and apartheid in their minds. Mandela was concerned about racial divisions between black and white South Africans, which could easily lead to violence, chaos, and total disorder. Mandela supported the team and had the vision that this team maybe would unite this country before the big game of the world championship. At that time held in South Africa. The team captain visits Robben Island where Mandela spent 18 of 27 years in jail. There are the coach looking around the cell and he said this, “Mandela spent so many years in a tiny cell and came out ready to forgive the people who put him there.”
Life is Supposed to be full of Joy, Happiness, Gratitude and Love
Desmond Tutu was, right South Africa would have no future without forgiveness. My friends. This world has no future without forgiveness. We have no future without forgiveness. This world is filled with anger, hatred, and vengeful heart. The violence you see these days is often motivated by greed. You take away somebody else’s, property, whatever, but these days the violence and terror are not motivated by greed, but by anger, hatred and retaliation. Hatred cannot be defeated by hatred. Evil cannot be defeated by evil. When somebody hates you by hating back, you cannot defeat the hatred. You’re destroying both. So many people live in this world, in uncontrollable anger. No one can survive with that degree of anger no one can survive with that bitterness. No society can survive with that deep anger and resentment. Good life is full of love, joy and gratitude. The world, the life that we see in these, these days, it’s not really true life it’s dysfunctional life. Life is supposed to be full of joy, happiness, gratitude and love.
Forgiveness is the Antidote for the Poison Inside of us
And I believe that that is only possible by forgiveness. You know, we are not surrounded by angels and saints. We are surrounded by many broken people around us. There are so many broken people around us and broken people can be hurting, their words, their behavior and their attitude can hurt us. They may not mean it, but because they’re suffering so much that suffering also cause suffering in other people. It’s like poisoning us. It’s like poison within us and we carry the poison sometimes with us and in return poison other people. Sometimes we don’t even know what kind of bitterness we have inside of us. We’re not even conscious of walking a bitterness we have inside of us and we don’t even know how we hurt other people because of the poison within us. Hurt and pain spread like infectious diseases. We cannot live our lives with poison within us that will destroy us and destroy other people. Forgiveness is like taking the poison of hatred out of your system. That is why forgiveness is the most important thing in life.
Forgive, don’t Retaliate
That is why before modern research, we only talked forgiveness in church and all that, but these days modern research scientists, they are studying forgiveness and they realized after studying forgiveness they realize that forgiveness can transform people, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I do believe that forgiveness can transform us and so many of us suffering from that poison without even realizing it because he manifests itself in a very, very different way, but only through forgiveness that poison can be melted, can be taken out of our system. So forgiveness is a powerful skill, powerful life skill. It is an essential life skill. You want to live a good life? You have to have this skill of forgiveness to survive in this hostile world. It is necessary skill, a life skill that we must have not only to survive, but to thrive in life. We need to learn the art of forgiveness, it should be the focus of our life every day, every moment we think about forgiveness. How can I forgive somebody that should be always in our brain? We should find it. We should search hard for the way to forgive, not the way to retaliate, to pay back and to conquer.
“We have to always think hard to find a way to forgive this.” Desmond Tutu said this. I’m using a quote from South Africans a lot because our team is in South Africa right now. They are doing mission there. As Desmond Tutu said, “choosing forgiveness rather than retaliation ultimately serves to make you a stronger and a freer person.” How true that is. This world needs forgiveness. Without forgiveness, this world will not be able to sustain itself. Each and every one of us and one of them has to learn how to forgive. Forgiveness is so hard. It is so difficult. Probably the most difficult thing to do in life. That’s why you don’t see true forgiveness often around us because the forgiveness is so hard. Retaliation is always easy way out. That’s the easiest to do. That’s why in many Hollywood movies the conclusion is retaliation, payback, show them off, but there’s not really many stories about forgiveness. Jesus’ story about forgiveness or the story about the cross that is a very unique story that we have as Christians. Forgiveness is so hard, that it’s almost impossible we say, “I can’t do that.” You say, I don’t want to forgive.
Forgiveness is a Result of our Spiritual Discipline
Jesus knew that very well, so in today’s scripture passage, before Jesus told them to forgive, what did Jesus do? What did Jesus do? Jesus, what Jesus did was this. Jesus said to them, again, “peace be with you as the father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit. Then he said to forgive. Jesus knew that disciples cannot do the forgiving on their own with your own strength. They needed the help of the Holy Spirit.
So we realize that forgiveness is a spiritual thing. I went to Ohio one day and then this a guest speaker. He was telling me or telling us about his own, struggle that I mean he had such a hard time with one of the congregation members. When he was doing ministry in another part of the city and then the other city, he was doing the seminar and then when he saw this person, that person who gave them, so I gave him so much difficult time. Hardship was right there. It was fine. So he greeted them and and all that, he came to the motel they were staying and all of a sudden all the rash, all over the body and he realized how painful that was, how much he was hurt inside and how he didn’t really deal with it and reconcile with it. Forgiveness is difficult. You cannot do it emotionally. Your emotion does not allow that.
Too painful to forgive. We are too weak to choose the way of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a result of our spiritual discipline. When you become spiritual and deeply enter into spirituality only little you can forgive. It’s not that you just do a little bit of a spirituality and you can’t forgive this much. No, you can do so much of spiritual discipline and at the end the result is only little. You can truly forgive, but that little forgiveness is so liberating. It is so beautiful where there is true forgiveness, life comes alive. My friends, we all need forgiveness and also we all need to give forgiveness. That’s what humanity is supposed to live by. That’s how humanity survives. We don’t survive just on bread. We survive on forgiveness and this world simply doesn’t know anymore how to forgive and god called us to do that ministry of forgiveness with each other, and that is. That is God’s calling this afternoon.