Summary: We have an important responsibility to forgive others.
The preacher's Sunday sermon was Forgive Your Enemies. He asked how many have forgiven their enemies. About half held up their hands. So he repeated his question. Now about 80% held up their hands. He asked the question again. This time, everybody responded. Everybody that is, except one elderly lady.
"Mrs. Jones”, he said, “You’re not willing to forgive your enemies?" "I don't have any." she replied. "Well now Mrs. Jones, that’s pretty unusual. May I ask how old you are?" "Ninety-three." she answered.
"Mrs. Jones, if you would, please come down in front and tell the congregation how a person can’t have an enemy in the world." So the little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, turned to face the congregation and said, "It's easy, I just outlived the idiots."
When we think and speak about God’s grace, I think that the part of it that comes to mind most often is the way He forgives us of our sins. We know that to receive our salvation, we need that grace, that forgiveness; because we know that it is by grace that we’ve been saved.
Now, as Paul points out to us in Romans chapter six, grace and forgiveness is not a license to go on living a life of sin because we know that we have the grace of God to fall back on. There’s too much teaching in the Scriptures on that subject to think that such a lifestyle would ever be possible. If we’d try to live our lives this way, we’d be ignoring the truths of faith, obedience, and perseverance. To live in such a way that includes God only where He does the forgiving while we continue in unrepentant sin has nothing to do with faith, obedience, or perseverance whatsoever.
It’s like a story I read not too long ago. A young boy prayed and prayed for a new bicycle. He prayed for weeks. “Finally”, he said, “I realized that it doesn’t work that way. So I went out and stole a bike and started praying for forgiveness.”
We do need forgiveness. Not as a crutch to fall back on so we can go on sinning, but because we are an imperfect people; an entire being that’s fallen from sinlessness into sinfulness. And we absolutely need grace to be redeemed in the sight of God. And we should give God constant praise that He gives us what we don’t deserve.
In our text this morning, we see where Jesus gives us an example of how we should pray. We can see that he immediately praises The Father. “Hallowed (or Revered) be Your name”. And then prays for God’s will to be done. He goes on to ask for our physical needs to be taken care of. Then, before he prays for protection from evil, he says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
One day while I was studying, I was reading this passage that a lot of people refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. I personally think of it as the Lord’s example prayer. My opinion is that this is an important lesson in the things that we ought to pray for.
But it was what Jesus said right after his prayer that really grabbed my attention. If we go back and read that passage, we see in verses 15 and 16, just as soon as he says “Amen”, he continues by saying, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
What a truly ominous statement that is! For Jesus to say that the forgiveness of our sins depends on how willing we are to be forgiving of others!
Have you ever really let the fact sink in that if we’re to expect God to bestow His grace upon us, we need to be willing to not only accept it, but also allow this same grace to flow through us; to show by our faithful action that we are His people – His children.
If we take out our bibles and go to Matthew chapter 18 and read verses 21-35, we can see how Jesus illustrates this point.
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.