Author and educator Sean McDowell asked Liberty University students last week if they had ever been hurt by someone they really cared about, before urging them to forgive both themselves and others to achieve freedom and the ability to love people as Jesus did.
McDowell told the audience at the weekly Liberty University Convocation that there is a lot of confusion in Christian circles about what forgiveness is. "Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you're waiting to feel something to forgive somebody, let me tell you, it's not going to happen."
The weekly gathering of Christian students at Liberty University's convocation invites well-known speakers such as NFL Quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and sportscaster James Brown, host of NFL Today on CBS – both of whom will speak later this semester.
During Friday's convocation, McDowell told students that forgiveness was not forgetting. "The Old Testament says God will remember your sin no more. Does that mean God actually forgets and doesn't remember that we did sins? No, of course not. It's saying that God does not count those sins anymore," McDowell said to the students.
He went on to tell Liberty students that they are supposed to remember their sins themselves because "if we didn't remember we'd go out and we'd do the same thing again."
McDowell asked students if they knew who the hardest person is to forgive. He replied, "I think it's ourselves." Confessing about times that he had to forgive himself, he shared, "It is for me. It's myself that's the hardest for forgive."
"I know many of you in here have burdens from sins, from hurts. Some you've done yourself and you think, 'Man, if my professors at Liberty knew about what I'd done, there's no way they'd say I can be forgiven.'"
Referencing 1 Corinthians 13:5, McDowell quoted, "Love keeps no record of wrong." In a very serious tone he asked, "Do you have a mental list of wrongs that others have done to you? Who's on your list? Whose name, when you hear it, makes your heart harden?"
As a high school teacher, McDowell regularly teaches students at Capistrano Valley Christian School. He shared throughout Friday's convocation experiences in which he faced wrong-doings by others in which he had to forgive, such as when he played basketball as a student and a fellow player knocked him down. McDowell told students that this was not easy to do, but in order to have freedom he chose to forgive.
McDowell claimed that his thought on one of the reasons we don't forgive people is "because it feels good to hate." He went on to explain to the students, "Sometimes it feels good to not forgive somebody."
Closing out his address, McDowell urged students to forgive themselves and forgive other people so that there would be true freedom to love people as Jesus did.
McDowell is the son of bestselling author and Christian apologist Josh McDowell. The father and son team co-authored Evidence for the Resurrection: What It Means for Your Relationship with God, which is an apologetics book written about the resurrection of Jesus Christ with insights from today's culture. Sean McDowell also is head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian School, where he is also a teacher of Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics.