Ever seen misprints in church bulletins? Funny stuff. And when it goes even wider — in the newspaper. And sometimes they’ll print a retraction or a correction. And in their attempt to make amends and correct the wrong, only makes it worse. Here is one that says, “In a recent article, we referred to the former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation as Lee Iacoocoo. That was incorrect. His real name is Lee Iacaca.”

 

Just like those retractions, the next step on the Road to Recovery is about something that went wrong and trying to make it right. We’ve taken the Reality step, and the Hope step. Then we took the steps of Commitment, Transformation and Housekeeping. Now, it’s time to take the Relationship Step. This is the principle of doing a little relational repair work. Trying to repair some of the damagethat others have done to us AND we have done to others. It is the 2nd “E” in the acrostic R-E-C-O-V-E-R-Y.

EVALUATE all my relationships. OFFER FORGIVENESS to those who’ve hurt me, and MAKE AMENDS for harm I’ve done to others — except when to do so would harm them or others.

This is based on Ephesians 4:31–32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”

There are obviously 2 parts to this step. First, forgive those that have hurt me and second, make amends to those I’ve hurt. We’re going to deal with those WHO’VE HURT YOU and THOSE YOU’VE HURT.

OK. The passage says that I’m to forgive those who’ve hurt me. But WHY?

1. Because GOD HAS FORGIVEN ME.

And if God has forgiven me, I should forgive other people. Colossians 3:13 says, “Never hold grudges. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” When I remember how much God forgives me, it makes it a whole lot easier to forgive other people. You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you.

2. Because RESENTMENT DOESN’T WORK.

Resentment and unforgiveness are just crazy. Job 5:2: “To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.” Foolish. Unproductive. Illogical. Solomon said, “It’s foolish to harbor a grudge.” It’s irrational, a waste of energy. Resentment is unreasonable.

Resentment or unforgiveness doesn’t work. Resentment causes people to do stupid things. Resentment is like taking poison yourself hoping somebody else will get sick. You always hurt yourself more than the other person. Job 18:4: “You’re only hurting yourself with your anger.”

Somebody may have hurt you 10, 20, 30 years ago, and you’re still resentful about it. It’s still making you miserable. They’ve forgotten it.

Resentment cannot change the past, cannot correct the problem. It certainly won’t change the person. It doesn’t even hurt them. It only hurts you. Does that unforgiving attitude make you feel any better? I’ve never talked to anybody who’s been resentful and they say, “I feel so much better being resentful.” It just makes you miserable. Bitterness just makes you mad, unhappy. The most unhappy people I know are those who are carrying a grudge. It’s unreasonable, unhelpful. It’s a proven medical fact that the unhealthiest emotion people have is resentment. It corrodes your soul like poison.

It’s not a coincidence that it’s called bitterness. There’s a reason you say, “That guy’s a pain in the neck.” He may be. Resentment has physical consequences. Dr. S.I. McMillin wrote a book that showed that the 2 greatest causes of the physical problems in your life are guilt and resentment. He said, “It’s not so much what you’re eating. It’s what’s eating you that matters.”

It has physical consequences. It has emotional consequences. It can lead to depression. It leads to fatigue — nothing drains you emotionally like bitterness. Thinking of that person who did you wrong— former husband or wife, teacher or coach who embarrassed you in school, the parent who never told you they loved you, that person you were dating then just dropped you and never said anything about it — helps you hold onto all that. It drains your body of energy. It just prolongs the hurt. It’s kind of an emotional suicide. You need to forgive those that hurt you, for your own sake.

3. Because I NEED FORGIVENESS IN THE FUTURE.

Jesus said, (Mark 11:25) “When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.  The Bible says we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give. It’s dangerous to burn the bridge that you’ve got to walk across. Forgiveness is a two-way street. Jesus made it pretty clear when He taught us to pray with this kind of attitude: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” In other words, “Lord, forgive me as much as I forgive everybody else.” Sobering, isn’t it?

 

“OK. I’ve got that. But how? How do I forgive those who hurt me?”

Well, it starts when…

 

1. I REVEAL my hurt

Admit it. Let it out. Face it. Be honest. You can’t get over a hurt until you admit it hurt. It’s the craziest thing, but we don’t want to admit the times that people we love have hurt us. I think it’s because we have a misunderstanding that you can’t love somebody AND be angry at them at the same time. But you can.

 

I’ve heard people say, “I forgive my parents; they did the best they could.” But you can just tell that they are so angy on the inside. But on the outside, they say they’ve forgiven them. That’s denial.

Reveal your hurt. Admit it and put it down on paper.

 

You’ve got some options when it comes to hurt. You can repress it — just pretend it doesn’t exist, ignore it, push it out of the way.

Or you can confess it. You just admit it. I’ve had people say, “I’d really like to close the door on my past. So this person doesn’t hurt me anymore.” I say, “Great, but there is no closure without disclosure.” Reveal it. Admit it. Own up and say, “That hurt. And it was wrong and it hurt me.” Get really practical. Make a list of those who’ve harmed me, what they said, what they did, what they thought. Write it down, so you can look at it. It’s not this fuzzy thing that you resent. It’s specific. Then…

 

2. RELEASE my offender.

 

Let them go. Stop holding on to the hurt. How do I do that? How do you release an offender? Do it by forgiving them. It’s the only way you can release them. You don’t wait for them to ask for forgiveness. You do it whether they ask for forgiveness or not, because you’re doing it for your sake — not theirs.

 

“But why would I do that?” Because God has forgiven you and you’re going to need forgiveness in the future and resentment doesn’t work. It just makes you miserable. So you release your offender and forgive them for your own sake.

I’ve seen impossible situations and relationships get healthy and flourish after people released their offenders. There was a woman who was going blind in one eye — the blindness developed as she was going through a very stressful and messy divorce. She heard this challenge. Put it into practice — she started right then by asking God for the power to forgive. And according to medical experts, it was a miracle that she regained her vision. God blessed her in a very specific way because she chose to forgive. I’m just sayin’, you have no idea of what can happen in your life when you let the people who have been hurting you off the hook.

 

Jesus said, (Matthew 18:21-22) “‘How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? ’Jesus answered, ‘Not seven times but seventy times seven times.’He’s saying it’s got to be continual. Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal, where you say, “I forgive ’em,” and that’s it. Because those feelings are going to keep coming back. Every time you get those feelings you’ve got to forgive them again.

 

“How do I know when I have released an offender fully?” You can think about them and it doesn’t hurt anymore. You can pray for God’s blessing on their life. You can begin to look at understanding their hurt, rather than focusing on how they hurt you, because HURT PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE.

Now, sometimes, it’s not always possible — it’s not even always advisable — for you to go back to somebody who’s hurt you. Their circumstances may have changed. Maybe your parents hurt you. They never even knew about it. For you to go back to them 40 years later and say, “You did this.” It would just blow them away. They never knew what they did.

 

Some people have changed. Some people have remarried. Some people have moved away and you don’t know where they are. Some people have died. What do you do in those kinds of situations? Use an empty chair. You get a chair and set it down in a room and sit there with yourself and imagine that person in the chair and say, “I need to say some things to you. Here’s how you hurt me” and you lay it out. “You hurt me this way, this way, this way. But I want you to know I forgive you because God has forgiven me and because resentment doesn’t work and because I want forgiveness in the future. I am releasing you.” You say it to the chair.

 

Another way to do it is to write a letter that you can never mail and you put in black and white, “This is how you hurt me.” You’ve been carrying it so long, you need to unload it and you let it out in a letter. And you do it for your own sake. You release them so you can experience freedom. Then…

3. REPLACE my hurt with God’s peace.

 

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  (Col. 3:15) How? “It’s unfair. If I forgive them, they get away scot free.” No, they don’t. Let God settle the score. He can do a whole lot better job than you can.

And in the meantime you focus on God’s peace rather than trying to get even.Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.”  The fact is, relationships can tear your heart into pieces. They can just rip it apart. But if you take all those pieces and place them in God’s hands — one day at a time — He can put them all together, so they’ll never fall away. And there’ll never be another one who can.

 

So, one half of this RELATIONSHIP STEP is to release/forgive those who hurt you — so God can do some repair in your heart.

But there is a second half to this step. Because in life, not only have people hurt you, you’ve hurt some people.

The second half to this step is to…MAKE AMENDS TO THOSE I’VE HURT. “Is this really necessary?” Absolutely.

Why? Because unresolved relationships are the root of your problem and they prevent recovery from happening. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” He’s saying here, the reason you can’t get over that habit, that hang-up, let go of that hurt, is because you’re holding on to some unresolved relationships.

HOW? “How do I make amends?”

1. Make a list of those I’ve harmed and what I did.

 

You say, “I can’t think of anybody.” Well, let me jog your memory:

 

• Is there anyone I owe a debt to that I haven’t repaid?

• Is there anyone I’ve broken a promise to?

• Is there anyone I’m guilty of controlling? A spouse? A kid? A brother? An employee? A friend?  • Is there anyone I’m overly possessive of?

• Is there anyone I’m hypercritical of?

• Have I been verbally abusive to anybody? Or physically abusive? Or emotionally abusive?

• Is there anyone I’ve been unfaithful to?  • I there anyone I have lied to?

 

Is this enough to get you started, or do I need to go on?

 

2. Think how I’d like someone to make amends to me.

 

Luke 6:31: “Do to others as you’d have them do to you.” So you stop and think, “If someone were going to come and apologize to me how would I want it done?” And you’d do it that way.

 

You’d want it to be…

1. The right TIME. Ecclesiastes 8:6: “There’s a right time and right way to do everything.” You don’t just drop a bomb on somebody. You don’t just do it when they’re rushing out the door or laying their head down on the pillow, “By the way I’ve got some stuff to deal with.” You do it according to THEIR time — not when it’s best for you but when it’s best for them.

2. The right ATTITUDE. Ephesians 4:15: “Speak the truth in a spirit of love.” How would you like somebody apologize to you? Privately with an attitude of humility, and sincerity, to simply say what they did was wrong, to not make any justification for it, no excuses, not talk about your part. You would want them to just assume responsibility.

 

No doubt, they may have had a part in the problem. But you’re just trying to clear up your side of the ledger in this step. As you approach the people you have wronged, don’t try to justify your actions. Focus on your part. And this is so difficult: Don’t expect anything back from the person you’re trying to make amends to.

In fact, make restitution where possible. If you’ve borrowed something and not returned it, you return it. If you owe somebody some money, financially, you pay it back. Keep short accounts in your life. You’re not perfect, but you can pursue what the Psalmist did: A blameless life. “I have nothing to hide. I’m not perfect, but all the things I’ve done have been repaired, have been made amends for.” That gives you freedom and confidence.

 

The poster boy for this was a guy named Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector. And in those days, as a tax collector, you would pay Rome what they asked for and then you could keep whatever you could get, over and above that. So they would rip everybody off. Like we’ve talked about before, they were the ones that everybody loved to hate.

But Jesus chose to go to his house for lunch. Kinda invited himself, actually. We don’t know exactly what they talked about, but there’s no doubt that Zacchaeus’s life was changed when he met Christ. He said, “Lord, I’m going to go back and restore fourfold everything I’ve cheated anybody of.

 

Jesus looked at him and said, “Salvation has come to this guy. This guy means business. He’s a real Christian. He’s willing to put his money where his mouth is.” He made restitution wherever it was necessary.

 

Now here’s something you need to know: The more serious your offense, the less likely you’re going to be able to make restitution. There are SOME THINGS YOU CAN’T RESTORE that you’ve taken away from other people.

But don’t underestimate the power of a sincere apology. What you do is, you go to that person at the right time, with the right attitude and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but is there any way I can make amends to you?” And you leave it at that.

 

You also need to ask yourself…

 

3. Is it APPROPRIATE? Proverbs 12:18 says, “Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.” Again, there are some situations where it would be unwise to contact the one you’ve hurt. Remember the qualifier on this step is: …except when to do so would harm them or others.”

 

In some situations, you wouldn’t want to go back because it would just open up a whole can of worms and probably make the situation worse. You could harm them or harm an innocent party. You don’t want to go back to an old girlfriend/boyfriend, who’s now married. You don’t want to do that. There’s an innocent party. If you were involved in some kind of affair, you don’t need contact with that person.

 

So what do you do? You use the empty-chair technique. You write the letter that you never send.

Bottom line: Do what you can do wisely and appropriately — to balance the ledger. Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

 

Get specific with a list of people that I’ve wronged and what I did. Then I approach them in the way that I would want to be approached.

 

Then I need to…

3. REFOCUS my life.

 

Refocus my life on doing God’s will — starting today — in my relationship with Him and with other people. That’s what recovery is all about. And honestly, it’s hard work. Doing the hard work of forgiving. Doing the harder work of making amends.

It’s just like I talked about last week — there’s a lot of trash and garbage that we need to give to God. And good news! God wants to deal with all that relational garbage in your life. In fact, when I forgive those who’ve hurt me and make amends to those I’ve hurt, I’m taking out the relational garbage. Then, God begins to recycle it and use it for good.

 

How does He do that? Job 11:13-16 — Put your heart right, reach out to God, then face the world again, firm and courageous, then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more.” Notice there are 3 steps to refocusing your life:

 

1. “Put your heart right.” Release and forgive.

 

2. “Reach out to God.” Ask Christ into your life. Say, “Jesus Christ, God, come into my life.” Reach out to God. You can’t manufacture enough forgiveness for all the times you’re going to be hurt in the world. You just don’t have it. Human forgiveness runs dry. You need to plug in to Jesus Christ, so that daily He gives you the forgiveness you need to let go of that on a daily basis and finally it’s released. You reach out to God and He gives you forgiveness and courage you thought you couldn’t do.

 

3. “Face the world again.” You don’t withdraw, you don’t hide in a shell. You resume living, you take chances, you say, “I’m not a victim anymore.” And you start looking ahead.

 

Notice what happens when you do these 3 steps:

 

“Then all your troubles will fade from your memory.” The memory will fade away. Wouldn’t you like to be free from all that relational garbage? That’s the purpose of Step 6. I challenge you to take it with me today.

 

Jesus said it like this, (Matthew 5:7 & 9) “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

 

Why do you think that is? Because when we forgive, when we make peace in relationship, that’s when we are most clearly reflecting the nature and character of our God. This entire story — the Bible — is really a story of recovery. God to the initiative in love to show us mercy and bring us peace. Ultimately, it was the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, that brought us forgiveness for our past, purpose for our present and a bright promise for our future.

 

Maybe you need to take the first commitment step toward complete recovery today. You need to say “Yes” to Christ as your Forgiver and your Leader.

Maybe today’s message, though, for you is: I need to get on with this. I’m sick and tired of living this way. I want my life and my relationships to be healthy and whole. I want to live the way God intended me to.

 

“So, God, I need your power in me to start this process. Show me who and how to forgive. I’m starting today. And help me to be honest about the people that I’ve wronged and hurt. Give me courage to make it right in a way that honors you and blesses them.”

 

Prayer:

 

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your mercy and your peace. It opened the way for us to be restored in our relationship to you. Now help us to restore the relationships we have with those around us. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your truth and power that sets us free. In Jesus’ name, Amen.