Friday, October 10, 2008

Forgiveness (Part 3)...

Let’s hear Jesus out on the issue of forgiveness. He knows what he’s talking about.

Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (NIV)

Let’s not focus on the negative here. The bad news is plain enough for even the densest of folks to figure out. You don’t forgive. You’re not forgiven. Not much to explain.

The good news is that forgiveness is available to us. God will forgive us when we ask. He is gracious. He is merciful. The rest of the good news is that we can forgive. God does not ask us to do something he hasn’t empowered us to do. We can forgive with his help and because we’ve been forgiven. We can pardon others because we’ve been pardoned. We can release others from their debts because we’ve been set free. In a very real sense, forgiveness is the visible evidence that we’ve received God’s grace and that we truly understand his mercy.

Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive his brother when he sinned against him. “Should I do it seven times?” Peter asked. Jesus’ answer must’ve blown him away. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Then our Master told this story to drive home the importance of forgiving.

“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’ The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid.

“When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’

“The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt.

“And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.” (Matthew 18:23-35, The Message)

Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (NIV)

Once again, our forgiveness is tied to God’s. Forgive so you can be forgiven. Show the evidence of God’s grace in your life. Give it away to others.

Luke 17:3, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (NIV)

If we had to vote on the hardest teaching of Jesus to follow, I bet this one would make the top ten. We’d rather live by the old saw. “Hurt me once. Shame on you. Hurt me twice. Shame on me.”

This is tough. I don’t ever recall someone sinning against me seven times in one day, but two or three times, I’ve seen that. God says, “Never quit forgiving. Do it over and over and over again. Let repeat offenders off the hook.”

Ok, we’ve had the talk now. What are you going to do? Are you going to obey or disobey? Are you going to forgive or hold a grudge? It’s obvious what God wants. He wants you to forgive all who’ve sinned against you. Your ex. Your husband. Your wife. Your son. Your daughter. Your mom. Your dad. Your pastor. Your best friend. Your worst enemy. Do you want to do what he wants you to do?

His way is best. I tell you that from experience. There is freedom like you’ve never imagined on the other side of forgiveness. Letting my abuser off the hook was the best choice I ever made after choosing to follow Jesus and picking my wife.

Do you want to do what Jesus wants you to do? I’ll let you think on for a day or two. More to come.

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