Summary: If we don't handle bitterness & hostility differently than the way the world handles them, then we have not learned what it means to be a Christian. (Powerpoints available - #130)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints used with this message are available free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #130.)
A. I'm preaching this morning on the subject of "forgiveness," & this seems to be one of the most difficult subjects for many people to deal with.
You see, I'm convinced that most of us, at one time or another, have had someone that we have fallen out with. There have been times when anger has filled our hearts, & we felt that we would never be able to forgive & forget.
Maybe it was a brother or sister, a parent, someone at school, a business partner, a neighbor, or simply an acquaintance.
ILL. Robert Louis Stevenson, in one of his books, tells of two sisters who never married, living together in the same house, but who came to a falling out & decided never to speak to each other again.
So with a piece of chalk they divided up every area of their house. With a piece of chalk they drew a line across the sofa. They drew a chalk line right through the middle of the kitchen, & even the doorways were divided.
The two women lived the rest of their lives imprisoned in bitterness. They refused even to acknowledge each other's presence. With a piece of chalk they marked each other completely out of their lives.
B. People are still drawing chalk lines. Perhaps we don't see them, but they are there. Words are carelessly spoken. A deed offends. Something real or imagined happens, & the result is, "I don't want anything more to do with you. You're not my friend. I'm drawing the chalk lines. This is my side. That is your side."
This happens in every area of relationships, marriage, family, jobs, associations. Something happens in the office, something happens in the neighborhood, something even happens at church, & chalk lines are drawn.
In Matthew 18:15, in the KJV, Jesus says, "...if your brother trespasses against you..." "Trespass" means "to come across." In other words, "You are on my side of the chalk line. You have infringed upon my rights. This is my private territory, & you have come too far."
But Jesus says that His followers are supposed to act differently than that. We are supposed to try to get rid of barriers & chalk lines. And if we don't handle bitterness & hostility differently than the way the world handles them, then we have not learned what it means to be a Christian.
ILL. Charles Swindoll wrote, "As a Christian, I give up my privilege of hurting you because you hurt me. I give up my privilege of retaliating, of seeking revenge. I give up my privilege of nursing a grudge.
“It is true. You really did hurt me. I am not imagining it. But because I am a Christian I give up my privilege of hurting you in return."
With this in mind, let's look at what Jesus says about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21 35. Listen as I read: "Then Peter came to Jesus & asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to 7 times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not 7 times, but 77 times.’
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him 10,000 talents. (Folks, that's about $10,000,000 in our money!) was brought to him.
“Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he & his wife & his children & all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘& I will pay back everything.’ The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt & let him go.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii. (Now that is about $17 in our money.) He grabbed him & began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees & begged him, ‘Be patient with me, & I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off & had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
"When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed & went & told their master everything that had happened.
"Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
“In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed."