Forgive and Relate: Relationships Aren’t Easy (Sermon)


As I reflected on one silver lining of this deadly pandemic, my ability to work remotely, I decided to explore the other blessing which has emerged in the last 5 months for me: The Atlanta ministry of Rev. Damon P. Williams, Ph.D.  Having attended his mid-week, Zoom Bible Study for months -virtually from NC- I’d never heard him preach a sermon. I stumbled onto a video of an anointed Sermon he delivered on relationships. Oh my God!  It dovetails very well with his May 5th Bible Study, which I showcased in my last post – “Forgivemess: Hold Your Peace, Don’t Hold A Grudge”.

In this post I will excerpt ten powerful points made in Rev. Williams’ March 21st sermon. Relationships are not easy.  After studying the importance of Christians forgiving others unconditionally (Matthew 6:14-15, Revelations 18:1 – 10), the challenging nature of relationships seemed self-evident.  Along with my 10 excerpts of the March sermon, a video of the Sermon in it’s entirety will be shared.


  • Sermon / March 21, 2021 / “Relationships Aren’t Easy”
  • Jeremiah 31: 33 -34
  • Senior Pastor: Rev. Damon P. Williams (bio)
  • Providence Missionary Baptist Church, Atlanta GA

SCRIPTURE

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:33-34  NRSV


When I first listened to this Sermon, a smile came to my face. The title of his sermon says it all: Relationships Aren’t Easy. There are six (6) points which stood out as key takeaways.

  • “Sometimes we want from people things that God never intended for them to be able to provide”.
  • People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. “If it is a relationship that God has called you to be in… trust that God will give you what you need for you to change“.
  • “If you want to do relationships as God intended, you’ve got to be a [spiritually mature] adult, because relationships are for grownups”.
  • “You and I don’t hold up the covenant [with God], because we are too busy accessing the quality and quantity of our needs being met, rather than meeting other’s needs”.
  • “Relationships aren’t easy for people of faith, because oftentimes we look for reciprocity, rather than looking for responsibility”.
  • “Relationships aren’t easy because we won’t own our responsibility for the forgiveness of the iniquities of other people”.


There are four other points that I gleaned from Rev. Williams’ sermon. They focus on:

  1. A Christian’s covenant with the Lord.
  2. The essential role of forgiving others.

  • “[We must] recognize our covenant with God, to be formed to the image of God … to do that we must forgive”.
  • “Brothers and sisters, this is not about what they are doing, it is not about what they aren’t doing, it really is about are you forgiving.  Are you wiping the slate clean? Are you moving beyond the behavior? Are you moving past what has been said? Are you moving beyond what has been done? I acknowledge that you’ve got damaged emotions! I acknowledge you’ve got hurt feelings!”
  • “Rather than taking on the [I will] posture of God, we end up assessing what the other person is doing – and saying I won’t”.
  • Citing some of the things the world teaches, Rev. Williams went on to say: “But the Bible taught you that you should have never been on this Earth seeking a human being to do those types of things, because God said, ‘I will supply all of your needs’”.

Be it a marriage or a friendship, a Christian’s faith should affect how they relate to others. However, relationships can be hard at times. Like expecting an apology when someone has hurt you, expecting too much -even when you haven’t been hurt- is part of why relating is often challenging. For example, expecting a person in your life for a (limited) reason to be a ‘lifetime person’ is a recipe for frustration. For relationships that God has called you to be in, he will equip you to handle them – if you trust him.

  • I now have a relationship with 2 churches and a job in the Midwest.  Residing in Greensboro NC, I attend Bible Study in Atlanta GA (led by Rev. Williams), attend Sunday worship (virtual, New Jerusalem M.B. Church) in Winston Salem NC, & work for a firm in the Cleveland OH area.  I’ve been divinely equipped!

Hopefully, my excerpts from Rev. Williams’ sermon, along with the video of his entire sermon, are food for thought – as you relate and forgive.

To God be the glory.

Greg Silverthorne, 66 Assurance Way

Forgiveness: Hold Your Peace, Don’t Hold a Grudge

 

A funny thing happened on the way to Bible Study.  Having not attended a face-to-face Worship Service at my church (Winston-Salem NC) since March 22, 2020, the impact of the pandemic on me has been profound.  As I ushered that Sunday, I noticed attendance was down over 50%. Within a week, I would be furloughed from my job and live services at my church ceased.

When a close friend, who resides nearly 400 miles away (Atlanta GA), warmly mentioned his interactive Bible Study, I told him to please send me the link.  I started attending the mid-week Bible Study (Providence Missionary Baptist Church) during Lent.  I gradually got hooked folks!

The lesson offered on 5/5/21 was like being hit over the head by a 2 by 4!  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Rev. Damon P. Williams – who ably runs the weekly Wednesday Bible Study.  It covered an essential, though hard-to-practice Christian habit: Forgiveness.  Other than loving your enemies, this may be one of the toughest things for most Christians to do.

Rev. Williams allowed me to understand forgiveness and apologies in a way I, and those in the meeting (60+) I suspect, needed to hear, and apply going forward.

Greg Silverthorne, 66 Assurance Way


Unconditional Forgiveness and Apologies

  • Providence Missionary Baptist Church, Atlanta GA
  • Zoom-based Bible Study / May 5, 2021
  • Leader: Senior Pastor Damon P. Williams

Forgiveness

Based on the many questions Rev. Williams received after the prior week’s Bible Study (Revelations 18: 1- 10), he strongly felt it was necessary to focus on forgiveness again. He had planned to complete studying the Book of Revelations’ 18th Chapter.  The intense emotions often tied to getting (or not getting) an apology and offering forgiveness to others -without conditions- was compelling to some . . . . and confusing to others on April 28th.  He felt the need to revisit both topics fully on May 5th.  I’m glad he did!

In thinking about Forgiveness, there are three things Rev. Williams noted one needs to understand, namely:

  1. The scripture on this topic (Matthews 6:14-15 NRSV) he stated was purposely set at the end of Jesus’ instructions on the model prayer (v. 9 – 13). Scripture (v. 14 – 15) must always be studied in context.  This scripture and the model prayer occurred during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7).
  2. God’s instructions on forgiveness are unconditional.
  3. Forgiveness is not an option, it’s a requirement.
  • For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthews 6:14-15 NRSV

Being a forgiving person is about your relationship with God.  As a spiritual standard, it has nothing to do with the other person.  As Christians, he stated emphatically: “We owe God everything!”  So, when someone asks you why you’re a forgiving Christian, your relationship with God (not anyone else) should be your response. Being a resentful person isn’t pleasing to the Lord.

Someone in the session then asked Rev. Williams what it means to forgive someone.  He noted that when you forgive someone, you ‘wipe the slate clean’.  You don’t harbor ill feelings about them or the hurtful thing they did.

  • The person, he noted, does not have to do anything to be forgiven by you. Moreover, they don’t even need to know you’ve done so.

Forgiveness is ‘a matter of faith’ and should be considered like a “past tense verb”.

At this point Rev. Williams paused, seeing I suspect the face of some of the people at that moment.  He sensed what the sixty plus participants wanted to hear next. He went on to say:

  • I’m not saying it’s easy.

This seemed to be the elephant in the room.  At least twice during the Zoom Bible Study Rev. Williams reminded someone that you shouldn’t think about apologies yet.  You must first fully understand forgiveness.

He reminded us of the hanging of Jesus Christ on the cross.  And noted WHAT Jesus asked his heavenly father to do (Luke 23: 34).  He asked that those who participated in hanging him be forgiven.  The scripture reads:

  • Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. Luke 23: 34 NRSV

“Your salvation is connected to your forgiveness” Rev. Williams stated.  As I reflected on these words in my journal, I thought to myself: I better be a gracious forgiver if I wanna go to Heaven!

Your Expectations and Emotions

At this point in the study, the reason WHY Christians should forgive those who have wronged them was sinking in.  Rev. Williams then acknowledged the damaged emotions and hurt feelings one may experience interacting with others.

  • Some healing may need to take place after you forgive a person who has wronged you.

After he openly acknowledged how hard it can be to forgive at times, I personally realized the following:

  • Don’t expect the person you’ve just forgiven to apologize.  A slight that occurred in a few seconds can, if I am unforgiving, last a long time – if I harbor an ‘they owe me an apology’ attitude.
  • Don’t expect them to help you in your healing either. That’s a fool’s errand! A half-hearted apology, or one that comes years later (if at all), isn’t going to help you fully heal now.

Apologies

Only AFTER you’ve forgiven a person should getting an apology from them even enter your mind.  Will you still need to heal emotionally? Possibly yes, but your healing should NOT be based on any input from the person who wronged you.

  • However bad you may feel, Rev. Williams firmly stated, you should forgive them.

Christians stray from God’s will when they are, I realized, forgiveness procrasinators or apology seekers.

To put it simply, if you withhold forgiveness until an apology, an acceptable apology, is given you might be waiting a long time! To put it bluntly, that person, or you, could perish before one is offered. Even when Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, in great pain, he forgave. God-trusting Christians should too.

At this point, Rev. Williams made 2 important observations that powerfully capture apologies and forgiveness:

  • Sometimes you must let your FEELINGS catch up with your FAITH.
  • Forgiveness should be based on what’s in one’s heart, not one’s mind.

In closing the session, he suggested we study Matthew 6, Luke 23, and Psalm 51.


My Thoughts

I can honestly say that, while I’ve heard sermons on Forgiveness, the distinct intimacy of a Zoom meeting felt so different.  It allowed Rev. Williams to easily gauge if his words were being understood. Conversely, a conventional live sermon in a church doesn’t allow a preacher to so precisely assess if his thoughts, insights, and illustrations are reaching everyone.  Beyond the Zoom-based setting, I can say Rev. Williams has an understanding of forgiveness that is deep.

If the lesson had been presented in his large church santuary, the facial reaction of someone not in front pews wouldn’t be seen by him. Using Zoom, and seeing every face, no one was left untaught by Rev. Williams.  As a guest of his church, I learned a lesson I will never forget.

In summary,

  • Forgiveness isn’t optional, it’s the Christian standard which God requires.
  • It should be given unconditionally. Expecting an apology as a precondition of your forgiveness is not God’s will.
  • You do not need to tell the person you’ve forgiven them. That’s between you and the Lord.
  • Your feelings may need to ‘catch up with your faith’ sometimes.
  • Lastly, Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday. Remember his sacrifice (for our sins); remember his forgiveness (of those who transgressed against him).


If you hold to God’s unchanging hand, if you calmly hold your peace (Exodus 14:14), why would you ever need to hold a grudge again?

To God be the glory.


  • Rev. Damon Williams has led Providence M.B. Church since 2012.
  • Check out his full biography here (link).

Photo credit: Image from Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon under Creative Commons license (Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


66 Assurance Way

King: Your ‘Inner Spiritual Transformation’


  • Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1/10/29 – 4/4/68).  Today, Easter Sunday, is the 53rd Anniversary of his assassination.
  • “Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.”


66 Assurance Way