Summary: Forgiveness is something we want, but seldom are prepared to give. A sermon on why we should forgive

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“Forgive me – though not how I forgive others” - Matt 18:21-35

Gladstone Baptist Church – 9/7/06 am

Forgiveness is something we know we should do, but seldom do fully.

There was once a man who was bitten by a dog, which was later discovered to be rabid. The man was rushed to the hospital where tests revealed that he had, in fact, contracted rabies. At the time, medical science had no cure for this disease and so his doctor faced the difficult task of informing him that his condition was incurable and terminal. “Sir, we will do all we can to make you comfortable. But I cannot give you false hope. There is nothing we can really do. My best advice is that you put your affairs in order as soon as possible.”

The dying man sank back on his bed in shock, but finally rallied enough strength to ask for a pen and some paper. He then set to work with great energy. An hour later, when the doctor returned, the man was stilling writing vigorously. The doctor commented “I’m glad to see that you’re working on your will.”

“This ain’t no will, Doc.” Replied the dying man, “this is a list of the people I’m going to bite before I die.”

Many of us live and die with that kind of list, written in our minds, if not on paper. We all know that we are supposed to forgive people and leave the past in the past, but let’s face it, we seldom do that. We all are like elephants – but in the wrong way. We have minds that never forget or forgive instead of skin that is thick and strong.

In our society, the motto that often dominates our lives is “revenge is sweet.” It’s like the bumper sticker that reads

“Never go to bed angry, stay up and plot your revenge.”

Come, on, we’ve all done this, haven’t we. I remember, being on camps as a teenager and when at Uni, scheming and plotting some pranks to get revenge on the other dorm or on the girls. It is totally amazing how creative you can be when you are motivated by revenge. But I don’t think I’m telling you anything new when I tell you that this isn’t how God wants us to act.

But God says that if we don’t forgive others, he won’t forgive us.

Listen to some of these verses …

Matt 6:14-15 - For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

That is pretty heavy stuff isn’t it. If we forgive others, God will forgive us. If we don’t – He won’t

Matt 6:12 – part of the Lord’s prayer Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Our society’s version goes more like – Father Forgive me, though not how I forgive others.

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Jesus was once asked a question by Peter. He said – how often should I forgive a person who has wronged me. Turn in your Bibles to Matt 18:21

Jesus had just been talking to his disciples about managing disputes or misunderstandings. In verse 15, he says that if one of your brothers does something against you, then go and talk to them about it. Try to resolve the problem yourselves first. I’m not going to preach on this passage now, but how often, do we go and talk to a third party first before we go and address the problem with the person who is causing us trouble. If we followed the Bible’s guidelines, most problems would go no further than this initial discussion. Jesus says, only if you can’t work it out between the two of you, do you go and get someone else involved. And then if you still can’t resolve it – get the church leadership involved.

That is all great advice, but it gets Peter thinking. How often should I forgive my brother when he does something wrong to me? Let’s read from Matt 18:21

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” This sounds pretty arbitary doesn’t it, but the Pharisees believed that God required you to forgive a person 3 times. You see they knew that God had said in Amos that he wouldn’t turn away his wrath because people had sinned 4 times. So the Pharisees wrongly interpreted this to mean that God will maybe consider forgiving us 3 times, but definitely not 4. Peter, knew that Jesus expected his disciples to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, so he suggests a number of 7 – double that of the Pharisees, but Jesus shocks him.

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