Summary: Because everyone has sinned, everyone needs forgiveness. That is especially true within families. How does forgiveness play out in our families?
You might have heard the name Clara Barton before. After the Civil War, she helped organize the American Red Cross. One day a friend came up to her and reminded her of something awful that someone had done to her in the past. When her friend brought it up to her, she looked at her like she didn’t know what she was talking about. She acted like she had never heard about the incident. Her friend asked her, “Don’t you remember what I’m talking about?” Clara looked at her and said, “No, I distinctly remember forgetting it.” That’s the way forgiveness is, isn’t it? It seems like our minds are built in such a way that we only forget the things we’re supposed to remember. But if someone has hurt us or done us wrong, we can remember those things forever. But there is a difference in remembering them and holding on to them. Remembering is just a memory. We can’t do anything about those. They’re stuck in there. What we can do is let go of the bitterness and resentment that builds up around those memories. And the only way we can do that is with a conscious, ongoing act of forgiveness. That is what the key verse of this passage talks about in verse 13—forgiveness. What’s interesting is the context of that forgiveness. The context is in talking about the family. When we get to verses 18-21, it seems like we’ve been here before, doesn’t it? Paul already talked about those things in Ephesians 5. We looked at that passage a few weeks ago. When we see these words, “wives submit” and “husbands love”, we think that Paul is just copying things from the same playbook he’s used before. Is Paul just being one of those preachers that preach the same message over and over? Is that what’s happening here? That’s what it looks like, but it’s not. Yes—Paul is saying the same thing again. But this time, he’s saying it in a different context. This time he’s talking about family relations in the context of the forgiveness of Jesus. And he shows us how that forgiveness is supposed to play out in our families. This morning, as we look at this passage, we’re going to ask it four questions. Why do we need forgiveness in our families? What foundation do we build forgiveness in our family on? What will forgiveness in our family look like? And how can we get there? The first question is, Why do we need forgiveness in our families?
That might seem self-explanatory, doesn’t it? Families are made up of people. And people are going to mess things up. Most of the time the things we mess up are small things. We forget to take out the trash. We say something stupid that hurts our wife or husband’s feelings. We break the rules or talk back to our parents. We bring home a bad grade. We say something critical or biting or sarcastic that hurts our kids. We mess those thing up all the time. But sometimes we really mess up things in a big way. Porn, lust, adultery. Rebellion, strife, badgering, belittling. Families are made up of people. And one of the undeniable truths of life is that people sin. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And when we sin, we not only sin against God, we sin against others. People say things like, “What goes on behind closed doors is private.” “As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else, it’s okay.” Well, guess what? There are no closed doors when it comes to sin. Sin never affects only the person who commits the sin. Sin always impacts someone else. And here’s how it works: when you sin, the people it will impact the most are the people who are closest to you. By nature, that is your family. Let me be frank—men, if you think that your “private” lust is only impacting you, you’re wrong. Ladies, if you think that your attitude at home is only impacting you, you’re wrong. Kids, if you think that your sneaky rebellion is only impacting you, you’re wrong. There is no such thing as hidden sin. Scripture assures us that our sin will find us out—it will come to the surface. And the first place it will surface is in the home. That’s why our home is the first place we have to exercise forgiveness. God designed the family to picture His love for us. The husband is to love the wife in a way that pictures the love that Jesus has for His church. The wife is to submit to her husband it a way that pictures the loving devotion the church is to have toward Jesus. Parents’ love toward their children is to be a picture of God’s nurturing love toward us. And children are to obey their parents in a way that pictures our humble obedience toward the Lord. That is the design. That is what is supposed to go on in our homes. But there’s a problem. Sin gets in the way. And when it does, it mars and mangles the beautiful picture that God designed. And the only way to fix that picture is the same way that God fixed our relationship with Him. With forgiveness. Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “…if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” And verse 13 of our passage says that, even in the way that Christ forgave you, you are to forgive others. That starts at home. Just as your personal sin impacts those closest to you the most, your forgiveness of them should be the greatest. Why do we need forgiveness in our families? Because we all sin. Our sin impacts our families the most. So, in order to be the kind of family that Jesus desires you to be, you need to show the same kind of forgiveness that He showed you. Unconditional, continual, and undeserved. Families need forgiveness. But how can that happen? How do we get our families from where they are to where they need to be? The only way we can have the family forgiveness we need is to build it on the right foundation. So the next question is, What foundation do we build forgiveness in our family on?