Summary: As Christians we have the command to model our lives in the form and manner of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a servant church must have at its essence the embodiment of forgiveness.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Title: A Servant Church Forgives

Text: Luke 6:37 – 42

Focus: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven

In rereading the Luke passage during this past week, I was reminded that Jesus’ public ministry only spanned three years. Time is indeed a gift from God. We do not control it, we cannot manipulate it, and we definitely can not predict it. Time is a gift we can only by thankful for.

As Christians we have the command to model our lives in the form and manner of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a servant church must have at its essence the embodiment of forgiveness.

The other day I was having lunch. Beef brisket over rice. As the waitress served the meal, I noticed that she had placed gravy on the side, but I asked her could she have the cook pour a little of the essence over the meat and rice. Essence is the by product of the meat being cooked and the juices that flow from the meat that contain the seasoning. You know what I mean. Essence, the juice that seems to contain all of the favor and taste of the meat. Pour that over my rice. Essence is the remaining portion of the meal that you take your biscuit and sop up the juices. Essence, somebody here knows what I mean when I say essence.

Well when you bring all of the elements of the servant church together: empowerment, love, training, and healing – the by product of all that – the essence must be the ability and the capacity to forgive.

Without forgiveness the church would be dry.

Without forgiveness there would be no risk-taking that produces love.

Without forgiveness there would be no incentive to train.

Without forgiveness there would be no desire to heal.

Forgiveness is the essence of a servant church. If we don’t learn that lesson, I will argue that you miss the blessedness of being a servant.

I know forgiveness is the hardest Christian discipline to implement in our lives. Oh the text says, forgive and you shall be forgiven.

But, how do you forgive when every fiber in your body says get even for the wrong you have been done?

How do you forgive when you natural impulse is to strike back?

How do you forgive when your reputation is on the live, your street creditability, your sense of manhood or womanhood is being challenged?

How do your forgive when you are tired of losing every argument, when the pendulum never swings in your favor, when instead of letting you up, your enemy keeps pressing you down?

How do you forgive, when the demons get more vicious, the attacks get more relentless, and the ridicule gets more ridiculous?

How do you meet hate with love? How do you respond to chaos with charity? How do you deal with conflict by compromise?

If we are honest with ourselves we are lacking in the art of forgiveness. We lack the spiritual tools to forgive and love those who get on our last nerve.

The truth of the matter is that we have not reached the depths of love. We need to go deeper into love: deeper than our passions, deeper than our loyalties, and deeper than our kinship.

We must go deeper and move on up a little higher. God wants us to seek the highest good. God wants us to strive for the highest motive. God wants us to ascend to the heavenly heights on the stairway of love.

To go deep and to ascend high there are three traps we must avoid:

1. Hating those who love us.

That’s the root of all this violence and abuse. That’s the root of racism. It’s the attitude that says no matter what you do. No matter what kindness you show, I hate you. That’s the basic for pouting and giving of cold shoulders. There nothing you can do to change my feelings towards you.

2. Hating those who hate us.

The danger of hate to hate is that it only produces hate. We see it every day: segregation, apartheid, and war. Palestine’s against Jews, neighbors against neighbors, relatives who have not spoken in years – since you don’t call me I won’t call you.

3. Loving only those who love us.

That’s a do for me and I will do for you. You meet my needs and I’ll meet yours. That a mutual reciprocity kind of love. In that kind of love, if someone does something that is unloving towards us, we get disappointed and seek an end to the relationship.

The Gospel challenges us to do deeper and higher. Therefore, God wants us to travel the perfect way which is the path of Jesus Christ. And, God wants us to journey in the excellent way which is the path of love.

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