Hyung Jin Nim’s Sermon, Headquarters’ Church, Seoul, December 15, 2007
When we think about forgiveness, forgiving and learning the habit of forgiving is a very important part of living a blessed life. If you want to move forward, if you want to have more victory, more illumination, more peace, the process of learning how to forgive is such a very important practice.
Yeon Ah Nim’s Message
True Father forgave people even though they betrayed him. True Father even liberated people who persecuted him tremendously in the early stages of our church. He said it was really difficult, even for him, to forgive those people. But he had to do it because he is our True Father. In my life, when my mother passed away because of illness, no one was physically beside her. She went to the spirit world when no one was around her. Because of that, I blamed myself a lot, or I even told myself that I was selfish or even hypocritical.
By doing that, my memory of my mother was filled with guilt and sorrow.
I realized that it is not the way my mother wanted me to live. That is
not the way she wants me to live, so I learned to forgive myself, and
move on. Now, whenever I think about my mother and offer a prayer, I
can wish for her happiness in the spirit world, and I can even say to
her that I still love her so much.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes it is important to forgive others, but
the most important thing is, I think, to forgive ourselves first. Even
though we don’t express our pain verbally, it doesn’t mean it’s not
there. When we learn to forgive like True Parents did, God will forgive
us of our mistakes.
Interesting Story by Hyung Jin Nim
Last time we met the atheist who was swimming in the ocean. Now I heard another story about that same guy; he had a close call last time. This time he decided “I’m not going to go to the ocean, instead I am going to go hiking in the mountains, that’ll be safer. There won’t be any sharks, and probably no bears because this is Korea. So I’ll go hiking in the mountains.” So he went out, he climbed up the mountain; he was enjoying the beautiful scenery and the beautiful views, and suddenly he slipped on a rock, and began to fall, tumbling down the mountain. In fact, he tumbled off a cliff. And while he was spinning down, he luckily grabbed hold of a vine (branch) that was hanging from the cliff. He was holding onto that vine and he yelled up, “Is there anybody up there who can help me? God please save me! Is there anybody who can help me?”
From the top of the cliff came a booming voice that said, “Yes, there’s somebody up here.” And the atheist said, “Well, can you help me? Could you lower a rope down and save me, please?” And the person up there said, “Yes, but you’re going to have to do something for me before I do that.” The atheist said, “Well, who are you? What do I have to do in order for you to help me?” and He said, “Well I am Almighty God, and I need you to let go of the vine, and have faith in me and I will save you.” And at that moment the atheist pondered; he reflected on those words, and he looked up and said. “Is there another God up there?”
I heard it is like this “Forgiveness doesn’t condone wrong behaviors or wrong actions done in the past, but what it does do is, that it frees that person who caused us harm from the debt that they owe us, and when we free that person from the debt that they owe us, then God can also free us from the debts that we have from our mistakes, wrong actions, etc…”
Main Sermon by Hyung Jin Nim:
Today I’d like to talk to you about the power of forgiveness.
When we usually think about forgiveness, we may think that forgiveness has the power to solve even difficult situations. And many times, although it may be the catalyst for the process of change, it may not bring as much as we expect. But let’s look at forgiveness and why that may be beneficial to our lives. When we think about forgiveness, forgiving and learning the habit of forgiving is a very important part of living a blessed life. If you want to move forward, if you want to have more victory, more illumination, more peace, the process of learning how to forgive is such a very important practice. Remember that forgiveness does not condone a hurt or a wrong doing in the past, but what it does do, is that it opens up our future.
When we are able to let go of the wrong doings that people have done, that have caused harm towards us, when we are able to learn to let those go, to forgive, we’re able to now open up new paths; new doors can open up in our lives. I heard it is like this “Forgiveness doesn’t condone wrong behaviors or wrong actions done in the past, but what it does do is, that it frees that person who caused us harm from the debt that they owe us, and when we free that person from the debt that they owe us, then God can also free us from the debts that we have from our mistakes, wrong actions, etc…”
When I think about the practice of forgiveness, many times this question will arise, “Well, if I forgive, if I practice forgiveness, what if it doesn’t turn out right? What if I forgive somebody and the behavior continues? What if they continue to hurt me, to cause harm to me? “
Well, here we have to delve a little deeper into the nature of forgiveness, and when we can see closely, when we look at forgiveness, we will see that when we forgive, forgiveness does not immediately change the situation. In fact, forgiveness may not even change that person that you’re forgiving at all.
In fact, forgiveness, instead of changing or transforming something for that person, more often than not, it will help us improve our future; it will help us move on beyond those hurts and start seeing our futures with more light, letting go of the power that those memories have over our lives in the present.
So we have to remember that when a person is forgiven, that person has their own 5% responsibility to build back their trust account, and we can’t do that for them. When we forgive them, that’s our part. But on their part they have to start building back that trust account; they have to start doing right actions, they have to start changing a certain habit or changing a certain way of behavior etc… And that’s how they will build up that account.
But remember that’s not our responsibility. When we live a life of blessing it’s so important that in our lives we’re able to use the power of forgiveness. Because when we look at forgiveness, we can see that it is actually quite different from reconciliation.
Now I’d like to show you this slide here. Modern sociologists have identified five basic strategies that people use to avoid accepting blame when they have caused harm to another person. And these strategies can be:
1. To deny responsibility
2. To deny the harm that was done
3. To deny the worth of the victim
4. To attack the accuser
5. To claim that they are acting in a service of a higher cause.
When we look at forgiveness, we have to sort of understand that forgiveness does not necessarily equal reconciliation. However, if there is to be reconciliation between two parties, some level of forgiveness must exist. It must be present in order for reconciliation to actually happen. So, if we look at forgiveness, then we can say, that if I learn to forgive, either way I can win.
Why is that? Because let’s say if we’re able to gain reconciliation, we all obviously need forgiveness in that process. But if we are not able to gain reconciliation, we still win, because with the practice of forgiveness, even though that past hurt is not reconciled, we free ourselves from the power that that past event has over our lives. And thus, we’re able to move forward in a brighter and more inspired way, and start building our future the way that God wants us to.
When I hear the story of the Prodigal Son, as you all have heard in Luke 15: 11~32 , you remember the story of the young son who squanders his wealth, his inheritance? He comes back, the father totally embraces him, totally forgives him at that moment, and we remember, that the son was totally overwhelmed by the compassion of his father. He expected to come back as a servant, but he was embraced as a king. He was embraced as the son that was lost and now is found, the son that was dead but now is alive. And his father prepared a banquet for him etc….
His father prepared a party and, remember, that the elder son was angry? He said “Dad, how come you do this? This son squandered what you gave him. I toiled for you for years and years. I worked for you, I was loyal to you”.
But the father knew the power of forgiveness. He gave his son forgiveness. He was able to let go of the past hurts that he had felt, the disappointments that he may have felt with his son, and was able to forgive him of that debt that he owed him.
When we are able to forgive we can also trust ourselves more, because we now can trust that we have the power to let go, to be able to separate ourselves from the weight or the power that negative influences have in our lives, or the powers that are holding us back; we can separate ourselves from that and move forward into our bright futures.
In the same way, when we look at this story as well, we do find out that this son did not gain any more inheritance. He did not get any more wealth from his father; so in essence he had to build up his trust account again. He had to work on creating good behavior and good actions once again. He had to take his 5%.
But the fact that his father forgave him and gave a fresh start to him, the fact that his father did such a compassionate gesture, allowed the father to free his heart of the disappointments, of the feeling of failure of raising his children – maybe he felt like he didn’t raise his children so well- and he was able to let go of that and also move on in rebuilding those relationships.
Let’s remember our Pak Hyung Je Nim, who was present when Father went to Danbury. He recounted (remembered) a story in the old house living room. When Father was right about to go to Danbury, there were brothers and sisters there in the room. It was a packed room and everybody was crying; everybody was weeping. Father was now being incarcerated, he was going in prison, and Mr. Pak recounted that when all the members were crying and weeping, Father said, “You know what, I am not looking at Danbury; I am looking beyond Danbury, and beyond Danbury there will be great victories”.
Quite interestingly, when Father came out of prison ? and I think that you’ve all seen that picture – when he comes out of prison he is not defeated, he is not a victim. When he comes out, he has his hands up, he is smiling; he’s a free man, he’s a released man. He now is in a victorious step. And quite interestingly, when he did that, when he was able to go into prison, when he was able to forgive the persecutors, when he was able to practice forgiveness, when he came out, quite interestingly, all these Christian ministers came out to support him. Jerry Falwell, other types of Baptist ministers, came out to support religious freedom. They had a huge banquet, and in that banquet, True Father reminded them again that he never saw that event as something where he would feel defeat from, but in fact that he gained victory from that event.
In the same way, when we look at God, our own relationship with Him, let us believe that God is just. Let us believe that He is taking account of our lives. He is taking account of the people that hurt us. He’s taking account of the people who’ve spoken negative words over us, or have harmed us in some way. He’s taking account of those things and that’s His role, that’s His 95%.
It’s not our role to go after those people and try to get pay back or try to get revenge on those people. If we do that, we will sour our futures. We will not be able to focus, and we will not be able to live that blessed life that God wants us to live.
So it’s so important that when we’re able to practice the practice of forgiveness, actually we’re able to learn how to free ourselves from the past, we’re able to not let the past determine the course of our futures. And so it is very important if we are to live a blessed life to know that God is just, that He is keeping the tally (counting), and that it is not necessary for us to get pay back with the person or to get even with the person, or to get equal with the person etc… Actually we can leave that up to God, and we can move on with the confidence that we have a bright future in front of us.
Jesus spoke in Matthew 18: 21~35 about the parable of the unmerciful servant. He was teaching his disciples about this parable. The parable was basically about a master who forgave his servant of a debt that the servant owed him. But when the servant had another person, the servant was not able to forgive another person of the dept that that person owed him. So the master was very angry at this; he said “How can you do such a thing? I forgave you of your debt. You should have forgiven that other person of the debt that they owed you.”
But for the smaller things in our day to day lives, like small inconveniences that make us a little upset, let’s get into the habit of learning how to forgive quickly
And Jesus spoke about this, saying that this is exactly how our Heavenly Father is. He is willing to forgive us of our mistakes, so in the same essence (so in the same way), He expects us to forgive others when they commit wrong against us. Since He is compassionate enough to be able to forgive us, He expects us as His children, as those who are made in the image of Him, to also practice that same practice of forgiveness towards people, to let go of the power, that those people may have over our lives.
In that same parable, Peter asked Jesus “How many times should I forgive a person who commits sin against his brother, how many times do I have to forgive him?” It’s very interesting! Jesus says, in one translation, “77 times you should forgive” and in another translation he says, “You should forgive up to 490 times.” So that’s a lot of forgiveness if you think about it. What do we hear here when we see Jesus speaking about forgiving that many times? We can remember the practice, we can be aware of the practice of learning to forgive quickly.
Many times during the day I remember seeing a man literally for 3 hours scream at a stepladder, literally for half the afternoon! He fell off (the ladder) and here he was, screaming at the stepladder; he was throwing it around. It wasn’t helping his situation; but he was not practicing forgiveness to the step ladder.
In our daily lives we know that small things, even in our relationships, even in our marriages, small things can cause great pain. In fact, the more we amplify the small things, the things that are not going right, the more we see more of those things and the more of those things occur in our life. In the same way, we should learn to get into the habit of forgiving quickly.
When I came to Korea for the first time, I was walking down the street and this lady totally banged into me and she just went off on her way. If I were in the United States, they would have said “Oh, excuse me.” If I were in Japan it would be “sumimasen”; if I were anywhere else I’m sure they would acknowledge the fact that they almost knocked me off the street.
But it was Korea, so she just walked right through me. At first I said “This is crazy. They should at least acknowledge that they bumped me, acknowledge that you took one arm off ” (Audience Laughs). I was quite frustrated about that. I remember talking to my wife about that “Yobo, I don’t understand these Korean people! I can’t understand this. All they have to do is say sorry, that’s all”.
I remember telling more people about it, and the more I talked about it, the more fruitless it became. Honestly speaking, I really learned this, ” I’m going to forgive these people. When they bump into me, so what? I’m going to forgive quickly. I’m going to not let them steal my joy. I’m going to be happy the rest of the day. I’m going to say ‘God bless you’ and move on. “
In the same way, when we have small offenses in our lives, it’s important to get into the habit of just letting it go. You know, small things, maybe we said a word not right, it’s OK, we can let it go. But if things are a little bigger, if the offenses are bigger, sometimes we have to go for help.
I know a family whose son is having a little difficulty in school with some behavior problems. They made the right step in taking him to professionals, seeking counselling and things like that. Many times it is important that if the offense is big, to then take it to the proper educators or authorities etc..
In Korea, maybe it’s your mother-in-law whom you are scared of, but Father was able to show God’s mercy to Kim Il Sung. He was able to forgive him. Because he did that, it opened the doors in the future.
But for the smaller things in our day to day lives, like small inconveniences that make us a little upset, let’s get into the habit of learning how to forgive quickly. Again, when Father was in Danbury, he was there for so many months, he was there really unjustly. We had very famous lawyers write about the inquisition of Rev. Moon, the fact that he was prosecuted in a very unfair manner; but he was able to practice his forgiveness. In fact, really, what that means is that he is able to trust in God; not only trust in God, because when we’re able to forgive, we can trust that God is keeping track, that He is in control.
Number 2: when we are able to forgive we can also trust ourselves more, because we now can trust that we have the power to let go, to be able to separate ourselves from the weight or the power that negative influences have in our lives, or the powers that are holding us back; we can separate ourselves from that and move forward into our bright futures.
Also in order to forgive another person, we also fundamentally have to trust people. We have to fundamentally believe that people are good, that they are not fundamentally selfish, that they are not fundamentally ego driven, but that they are fundamentally good and that they were made in the divine image of God, that they are fundamentally good and that they will not continue to stay in their present state forever.
So forgiveness in the end is about trusting God, ourselves and the goodness of people.
Father went to Kim Il Sung in North Korea and really met his arch enemy. This is the man who tried to assassinate Father. He deliberately made a team to try to take Father’s life. And Father went and embraced the man. Not only did he embrace him; I think the embrace is somewhat moving, but I think that there is even a more moving moment, and that moment is when he had to actually sit down with this man, Kim Il Sung, and eat dinner with him. He had to eat dinner with the man that tried to kill him.
Now we know it’s hard enough to eat with our relatives during Christmas, let alone (even more hard) with the man who is trying to kill you. So when I saw that, I said “That is quite amazing that he is able not only to forgive!” In Korea, maybe it’s your mother-in-law whom you are scared of, but Father was able to show God’s mercy to Kim Il Sung. He was able to forgive him. Because he did that, it opened the doors in the future.
Why do we continue to have a relationship with North Korea? Why are we continually able to work there and try to make peace and reconciliation between north and south? It’s because Father took that step; he took the step of forgiveness to the enemy that tried to literally take his life. If he didn’t do that, then of course we would not have the roles that we had until now.
So, when we look at today’s sermon, what is it that we can really learn or gain from it? Well, just like in the story of the prodigal son, let’s remember that forgiveness doesn’t necessary guarantee reconciliation, it does not. But however, if there is to be reconciliation, forgiveness must be present in some degree.
Let’s say reconciliation does not occur, then still forgiveness has power, in a sense that it frees us from the power that those events have over our lives. It allows us to press forward into our futures with more victory and more illuminations and more peace.
Let’s remember the parable of the unmerciful servant, that God forgives us; He forgives us of our mistakes and in the same way He expects us to forgive others of their mistakes. So next time you are in Korea and some lady takes your arm off, just forgive her; let it go, move on. Say,”God bless you, give me my arm back, but God bless you”. And let’s trust that God is in control.
Like True Father, when he emerged (came) out of Danbury, let’s emerge out of our circumstances, out of our situations. Let’s emerge as victors, let’s not emerge in the bogged down victim mentality. Let’s remove that; let’s move in the victor mentality.
If we do that, just like Jesus, who said “He who forgives, will be forgiven”, if we learn to harness the power of forgiveness, I do believe that it will help us more and more to live that life of blessings that True Parents have blessed us to live.
Brothers and sisters, can you accept my offering today? (“Yes”, applause)
Thank you so much.
Trasncribed by; Luz Sofia
Edited by; Rev. Beatrice Clyburn