Click here, accept this, check here. You’ve seen the words. And they all signify the same thing, that you have read and accepted the terms and conditions of something.
This is week two of our Terms and Conditions series. Last week we defined Terms and Conditions this way: Terms and Conditions: are rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.
But do we really read those terms and conditions let alone plan to abide by them? If you did, here are some things that you would know.
You have agreed that Twitter will have rights to all your content, even if you deactivate or close your account.
You have given Facebook permission to use all your photos in any capacity they want. Including in advertisements.
By clicking “I agree” you have given Instagram a royalty-free, worldwide license to use or modify your photos and videos any way they’d like
Netflix reserves the right to disclose all of your information to third parties (i.e., law enforcement or the government) should they deem it necessary. And you’ve agreed that Netflix will not be held liable if it gets hacked and your personal info is stolen.
If you are a LinkedIn user you have agreed to not lie, or “misrepresent your current or previous positions or qualifications.” So, if you are a dishwasher you can’t say that you are a sub aquatic ceramic hygienic engineer.
And if you listen to your music on Spotify you’ve said you’re ok with the section in their terms and conditions that reads, “We may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files.”
That means that you have given Spotify access to pretty much everything stored on your phone, but you’re ok, because Spotify insists that your info won’t be exploited.
Today’s message comes from Matthew’s Gospel in what has traditionally been called the Sermon on the Mount.
And it here that Jesus is speaking of relationships, and after warning people about the dangers of anger in the lives of those who follow him he adds some terms and condition for how we approach God in worship.
If you have your Bibles turn with me to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you,. . . “
So, if we go back to our definition that Terms and Conditions: are rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.
So, let’s begin by looking at The Service
The service that is being provided in this case would be the opportunity to worship God. Or to resume the fellowship that was broken by sin.
Remember last week we had looked at how humanity had been created to be in fellowship with God? And how, when they violated the terms and conditions, that is they disobeyed God, that caused a fracture in their relationship.
It’s only when we experience God’s Grace and forgiveness that we can see that relationship restored.
You’ve probably heard me speak on forgiveness different times and how important it is in the life of the believer.
Forgiveness frees us from the chains of resentment and bitterness.
This summer when I spoke about the parable of the unforgiving servant you might recall I said:
The prison of unforgiveness is built by those who refuse to forgive, and the keys are held by the same person.
Catherine Ponder wrote, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
And you understand that when you say, “I can never forgive them”, you are locking yourself into a cell of resentment and bitterness. And the bizarre thing is that you hold the key, at any time you can unlock the door and free yourself. If you choose to.
It was Lewis Smedes who said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Jesus was very clear in his teaching. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer he told his followers, Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
And there are times that you will need to forgive people who don’t even know they hurt you or haven’t acknowledged that they’ve hurt you or don’t think that they need to be forgiven.
I truly believe that, and in those cases, you forgive them for your sake, not their sake. You do that to set yourself free from bitterness and resentment.
Virginia H. Pearce writes, “Forgiveness is possible even when there is no restitution, no remorse on the part of the perpetrator.”
But that type of forgiveness will not mend a relationship.
When someone has been hurt or offended or betrayed then it causes damage to the relationship.
That’s what happens to our relationship with God when we are disobedient. And disobedience to God is called “Sin”.
That’s why we are told in Isaiah 59:2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
And so the bible tells us that if we want to worship God that we need to approach him with our relationships in order, and not just the vertical relationship with God, but the horizontal relationships we have with others.
God doesn’t just want us to have a restored relationship with him, but with those around us.
Let’s go back to the story, Matthew 5:23-24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
So here are The Terms and Conditions
If you are seeking to be in a relationship with God in what we call worship, perhaps corporate worship or even private worship, your prayer time and Bible reading, and you realize that you have offended someone, then you need to make it right, before you continue to worship.
Roger Hahn, in the Wesleyan Commentaries writes, “Worship of God is meaningless as long as we live in broken human relationships. People matter so much to God that He requires that we mend our relationships with them before we come and offer our gift to Him. “
Sometimes we wonder why there seems to be a barrier between us and God and why our prayers only seem to go as high as the ceiling. It may be that we have built the barrier or put that ceiling in place ourselves.
And so, Jesus tells us that when we realize that we’ve done something wrong to someone, if we’ve offended them or hurt them that we need to make it right.
But what does that mean? Is it just a matter of saying “I’m sorry”?
Jesus told a great story about a family where there was hurt and a broken relationship. You probably know it as the story of the Prodigal Son. The youngest of two sons demands his share of his father’s estate, he then leaves home and squanders his father’s hard-earned money.
Starting to sound familiar? And when the son decides to return home, because he eventually ran out of money and friends, he realizes that he has some work to do in mending the damage he had caused in his family.
Let’s pick up the story in Luke 15:20-21 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’”
So first you need to Own It
This is where we acknowledge that what we did was wrong and that we shouldn’t have done it. This is what the son did when he said, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
It’s what we are doing when we say, “I shouldn’t have said that, I shouldn’t have done that, I hurt you, I was wrong.” We are owning our behaviour.
The person you hurt needs to know that you know that what you did hurt them.
And maybe you’re thinking, “But it was unintentional, I didn’t mean to hurt them.”
But if I was in Tim’s, as unlikely as that may sound, and I stepped backward and jostled you and you spilled your coffee, what would I say? I’d say, “I’m sorry”.
I didn’t mean to do it, but it happened, and I would apologize.
And maybe you are thinking, “But if it happened to me, if those words were spoken to me, it wouldn’t have hurt me.” But it didn’t happen to you, it happened to them, and the words weren’t spoken to you or about you, they were spoken to the other person, and whether or not you would have been hurt is irrelevant if they were. So, own it.
And listen up, an apology with an excuse isn’t really an apology.
When you add “but” to your apology it stops being an apology and becomes an explanation.
“I’m sorry I got angry, but . . .” “I’m sorry I cheated on you, but . . .” “I’m sorry I stole from you, but . . .”
Remember that after the but comes the truth, and when you add “But” to your apology you are in effect saying, “I’m not really sorry.”
The second thing is you need to do after you own it is to Say It This is where it gets difficult. Where you have to swallow your pride. When you have to say, “I was wrong”.
If we go back to the story of the prodigal son, before the son returns to the father he has this conversation with himself, Luke 15:18-19 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
He was sorry, he acknowledged to himself that what he did was wrong, but he also had to acknowledge it to his father. It was his father whom he had hurt.
But it’s not just saying “I’m sorry, I was wrong” It’s also asking the person who you hurt, “Will you forgive me?” And that can be even tougher, because what if they say “No”?
Hamilton Beazley author of the book “No Regrets” writes “Apologizing is making an admission that we erred, and we don’t like having to do that. . . . It makes us vulnerable because we are requesting something — forgiveness — that we think only the other person can grant, and we might be rejected.”
The next thing that we need to do is to Correct It This is called restitution.
In the Old Testament the Law lays down specific examples of restitution, Exodus 22:1 If someone steals an ox or sheep and then kills or sells it, the thief must pay back five oxen for each ox stolen, and four sheep for each sheep stolen. It goes on to say in Exodus 22:3 “A thief who is caught must pay in full for everything he stole. If he cannot pay, he must be sold as a slave to pay for his theft.
There is a great example of this in Luke’s account of the Jesus story. The story is told that a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus meets Jesus and his life is transformed.
And in reaction to the grace and forgiveness that Zacchaeus was offered we read his response in Luke 19:8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Zacchaeus didn’t just acknowledge that what he had done was wrong, but he set about correcting that wrong.
But what if the injury wasn’t intentional? Exodus 21:33-34 “Suppose someone digs or uncovers a pit and fails to cover it, and then an ox or a donkey falls into it. The owner of the pit must pay full compensation to the owner of the animal, but then he gets to keep the dead animal.
You may not have meant it, but if you have taken something from somebody, or cost somebody something, then you need to return it and make it right.
It might be material or financial or it might go deeper than that. It might be that through your words, or innuendo or lack of words that you cost someone their character, and you need to correct that. And that can be tougher than fixing the material wrongs, but it has to be done.
Corrie Ten Boom was a survivor of the Nazi prison camps and she wrote, “Four marks of true repentance are: acknowledgement of wrong, willingness to confess it, willingness to abandon it, and willingness to make restitution.”
And sometimes, unfortunately, there is no correcting the wrong. The Nazis killed Corries family, stole her dignity and years of her life. Those things couldn’t be corrected.
When someone has lost their life, their health or their innocence because of your actions you can’t make restitution.
If your actions cost someone their marriage, how do you make restitution for that?
And don’t expect an apology and forgiveness to be a magic wand, some things can’t be repaired.
You need to try and make it right but, in some cases, there will always be reminders of the hurt. That doesn’t mean that forgiveness hasn’t happened, it does mean that some scars last forever.
Shannon L. Alder writes, “How you correct your mistakes will define your character and commitment to a higher power.”
If you are letting things go uncorrected it is a reflection on your Christian character. And if you can’t make it right, then acknowledge that. “I can’t give you back what I’ve taken from you and I’m so sorry”
But it’s not just restitution, when Paul was preaching to the crowds early in the book of Acts we read this excerpt from one of his sermons. Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
The next thing we need to do is Stop It It’s not enough to say you’re sorry, to ask for forgiveness and even to offer to correct the offence if you’re just going to do it again.
If your behaviour results in someone being hurt or betrayed, then stop it. And when we choose to stop a behaviour it’s called repentance. To repent literally means to turn from something.
So, if I’m walking across the platform, and I realize that I’m going in the wrong direction, I repent. Right there, that turn, did you catch that? That’s repentance.
There is a passage from the Old Testament, that also falls under the Terms and Conditions category, and it says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
When will God hear his people? When they turn from their wicked ways, when they repent.
It’s really hard for someone to take your apology serious when you keep doing what you were doing.
Paul was writing to the church in the city of Corinth and he was referencing something he said in an earlier letter, let’s pick it up in 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way.
Sometimes it takes the pain of a broken relationship to lead us to repentance. And sometimes it takes someone challenging us on our behaviour to bring us to the same point.
Those are the steps that each us will have to take at some point in our lives.
And here is what needs to happen when someone has taken those steps with you, Accept It
In the book “When Sorry isn’t enough: Making things right with those you love” Gary Chapman writes “The choice not to forgive pronounces the death penalty upon the relationship. Without forgiveness, relationships die.”
And remember Corrie Ten Boom, she had a lot more to forgive people for them most of us ever will have and she said “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
Because an apology alone cannot restore a relationship, there has to be forgiveness. In God’s grace that is what each one of us is offered. If we go back to the sermon that Peter preached at the temple, we read, Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
Our part of the equation is to repent, God’s part of the equation is to forgive. And we see that over and over again through the scriptures when we come to God and we confess to him that we are sinners, and we repent and ask him to forgive us, he forgives us. He doesn’t make us grovel or repeat the words over and over again.
You’ve heard it before, actress Marlene Dietrich once said: “Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”
God doesn’t reheat our sins for breakfast and he doesn’t want us to reheat the sins of other’s for breakfast.
If you say you have forgiven someone, then act as if you’ve forgiven them. Some people say they’ve buried the hatchet, but they keep the handle visible just in case they need it again.
Most of us can recite the Lord’s prayer from memory, and if not here is a reminder of how Jesus taught his followers to pray, remember right in the middle when he said, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
And just in case those who heard him missed it he adds to the end of the prayer, Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Here is an addendum, we often talk about forgiven ourselves, but sometimes before we can forgive ourselves, we need to apologize to ourselves.
We need to acknowledge that we made the wrong choices and made wrong decisions and that those choices had consequences. We need to make a commitment to stop that behaviour, and then we need to forgive ourselves. And forgiving ourselves is like forgiving others, it means we are no longer going to keep going back to that offence over and over again.
Gary Chapman writes, “No positive purpose is served by berating ourselves explosively or implosively. All such behaviour is destructive.”
I don’t know where you are at this morning, or what you may have to do. But you do, so let me pray that God will give you the grace and the courage to take that step.