Jump Start 3357
Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
It likely goes down in history as one of the most bizarre and odd trials of all time. Being prosecuted was Formosus, the former Pope of the Catholic church. He was appointed the head of that church in 891. The Catholic church was a strong political force in Europe at that time. Formosus appointed a German prince as the “Emperor of Germany.” The Cardinals and Bishops despised this man and angerly protested this appointment. Formosus died just a few years later, in 896. There was some suspicion about his death. The next Pope, Stephen VII, led the church to draw formal charges against the dead Formosus. The body of Formosus was dug up and brought to the courtroom.
John Wilder, in his book, “The Other Side of Rome,” wrote this about the trial:
“The body of Formosus was dressed in all the rich trappings of Papacy. The crown of Rome was pressed upon his loose scalp and the scepter of the holy office was placed in the stiff fingers of his rotting hand. The dead man was propped upon the throne and the trial began. Pope Stephen VII assumed the role of the prosecution. He closely questioned the dead man. Formosus did not reply. It did not take long to find Formosus guilty. All his acts as a Pope were declared null and void. His robes were ripped from his body, the crown snatched from his head. Three fingers that were used in bestowing the blessing were hacked off and his body thrown out into the street. It was tied behind a cart and dragged about the streets of the city until finally it was thrown in the Tiber River” (pg 112-113).
The trial of a dead man. How strange that must have been. How full of anger, hatred and resentment were those that led to exhuming Formosus’ body and having a trial in which a man could not defend himself. We laugh at such things and think how dumb this seems. And, yet, many of us have had our own little trials in our minds of those who have hurt us in the past. Some of these people are dead. Yet, the way we carry on, talk about these things and continue to be chained to those hurts of years gone by, it’s not much different than digging up ole’ Formosus.
Fewer things in all the Bible are more characteristic of God than grace and forgiveness. Many a wealthy person can be benevolent to the causes that they believe in, yet they are not godly in their ways. Many a person can be kind, even though they are not disciples of Jesus. But, it’s really hard to forgive and extend grace without having known our Savior. John describes Jesus as being full of grace and truth. And, that is one quality that God expects of His people.
· The Ephesians were told to forgive JUST AS God in Christ has forgiven you
· James said that the judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy
· Jesus said, in our verse today, if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven
· Later, in that same sermon, Jesus said, “by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you”
We struggle with forgiveness. We’d much rather dig up the dead and hold a trial, so we could get some justice. We continue to revisit the pain and the wrongs that were done to us. Like a child picking a scab, the wounds never heal. We continue to let them bleed, year after year, and sometimes, decades after decades.
How do I forgive? How do I let it go? My salvation with God is directly related to my relationships with my fellow man. I can’t be right vertically with God, if I am wrong horizontally with my brethren. My failure to forgive indicates a heart that is unlike the Lord’s. I stand with the prodigal’s brother, refusing fellowship, refusing to enjoy any association with someone I believe has hurt me. And, as long as I refuse to forgive, my heart grows colder, more bitter and more closed.
First, God has forgive you. That’s where we must begin. What we have done to God is much worse than what anyone has ever done to us. Every sin mocks God and shames Him. Every sin hurts God. And, we have sinned. How can I forgive another? God has forgiven me.
Second, justice, fairness and what’s right may not be paid out in our lifetimes. God will settle things in eternity. In writing about taking personal revenge, Paul told the Romans to leave room for the wrath of God. Some haven’t done that. There’s nothing left. They have dealt out all the wrath. There are some things that only eternity will iron out. Let God be God.
Third, when I forgive, let it go. Put the hurts in an unmarked grave and do not revisit that grave any more. When a person forgives, they realize that they have released a prisoner and that they were the prisoner all along. It is better to be too gracious and too forgiving than to be too demanding and too harsh with someone. Learn towards God’s side of things.
You can forgive. It will make you feel better. It will give you peace. It will allow you to move closer to the Lord.
They dug up ole’ Formosus and put him on trial. What a shame that was. And, what a shame it is, when we act the same way.