Summary: God has forgiven us. The blood of Jesus washes us clean. God does not hold our sins against us, so we should be like Jesus and forgive those who sin against us. Such is our duty and such is our witness.
MATTHEW’s GOSPEL chap 18 verses 21-35
and LUKE 17: 3b-5
Sermon: Forgive as we have been forgiven.
Q.1 How many times have WE sinned?
Answer 1 something like countless times.
Q.2 How many times has God forgiven US?
Answer 2 probably also – countless times,
but once for every time we have asked Him to,
asking Him in Jesus’ name.
Q.3 How many times have people sinned against US?
Answer 3 probably also – countless times.
Q.4 How many times have we forgiven THEM?
Answer 4 should also be countless times,
and ideally once for every time they sinned against us.
This is certainly what Jesus seems to be teaching in today’s Gospel reading.
God takes our sins away as far as the East is from the West
according to Psalm 103,
and He cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness
according to 1st John chapter 1,
and there is no Scripture that seems to suggest
that He holds grudges against US,
so WE should try not to hold grudges against others.
Whatever people do to us, we should take it in our stride.
We should try to let God bring some good out of it,
remembering that two wrongs don’t make a right,
and that if we retaliate against someone who hurts us,
we end up being no better than them.
We all know this is a good theory,
and we all know it is hard to practice it, but that's what God wants.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said "love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
do not retaliate when you are attacked,
give to those who ask of you,
do not judge, and forgive, so that God will forgive you".
These words are well known
and most people around the world,
whether Christians or members of other world religions
and even atheists and agnostics
identify with them, and say this is good advice
and if everyone in the world lived by these teachings,
the world would be a better place.
But it's not easy: let's be honest.
One of the many wonderful things about Jesus
is that he did not only “preach” forgiveness, he “practised it”.
Jesus forgave the people who hated him so much
that they shouted “Crucify him, crucify him”,
and he forgave the Romans who executed him by nailing him to a cross.
When I was an RE teacher I used to get pupils to read the story
of Corrie Ten Boom.
Her family in Holland was tortured during WW2 because they sheltered Jews.
Her father and sister were killed by the Gestapo,
but at the end of the war Corrie was able to forgive the Germans.
Romanian Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand
was able to forgive the Communists
who pulled out his fingernails, toenails and teeth.
Mother Teresa was able to forgive the Hindus in Calcutta
who threw insults and dead animals at her
when she first set up her hospice,
believing she only wanted to force Christianity on vulnerable Hindus.
Can WE forgive those who bully us?
Can we forgive the person who stole our promotion,
or stole our money,
or made us miserable and unhappy?
According to our human nature – NO,
but according to our super-natural nature,
with the help and grace of God –
the answer should be YES,
and not only once;
and not only seven times,
because Jesus did not mean that after someone has sinned against us
eight times, then we can punch them!.
Some people say it’s hard to be a Christian today;
getting out of bed to come to a church on a Sunday morning;
giving some of our hard earned wage or pension in the Offering;
saying Prayers on a regular basis;
reading a portion of the Bible every day.
Doing these things DOES seem to be too hard
for the majority of people in the UK today.
I heard on the radio last week that only 3% of parents
think religion is important to the lives and futures of their children,
and only about 7% of the population will be in a Church this morning.
Personally I think going to Church,
putting money in the Offering,
reading the Bible and saying Prayers
are, in fact, the easiest things about being a Christian;
it is practising what we preach that is hard to do,
being nice to those who are nasty;
forgiving those who have sinned against us.
It is easy to read Luke chapter 17 verse 4
but even the apostles found Jesus’ teaching difficult to put into practice.
Notice their words in verse 5:
‘The apostles said to the Lord,
“Increase our faith!”.’
We really need faith to be like Jesus,
and behave like Jesus,
in the workplace, in the classroom, in the factory, in the hospital, in the shops;