Summary: We are to forgive as Christ forgave us (the parable of the unforgiving servant).
[HTML formatted version of this sermon is located at:
Before we study God’s word today, let’s take a moment to obey 1 John 1:9, by silently confessing any known sins to God. Naming our sins insures that we are in fellowship with Him, filled with the Holy Spirit, and not separated from Him through carnality. So let’s pray.
Father, thank you for always forgiving us when we bring our sins to you, for restoring us to fellowship, and for giving us your Holy Spirit to help us study your word now. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today, I want to look at one of Jesus’ parables in the gospel of Matthew, a parable about forgiveness. It’s one that we’ve all heard before in Church or Sunday School, but the subject of forgiveness is something that we all have to face from time to time in our lives. There are times when people will ask it from us, and hopefully when we wrong others, there are times when we will ask for it as well.
Some common examples of forgiveness that really test our faith are:
Does a believer forgive an unfaithful spouse, or get a divorce? Whether you stay or divorce, how do you treat the person afterwards?
Should a church forgive a dishonest trustee, deacon, or pastor? How do you forgive but still protect the church from having this happen again?
Do you forgive your best friend who took money from you and now is sorry? If you forgive your friend, how do you protect yourself from having it happen again?
If we "forgive" those people who have wronged us, do we "forget" about what they did? How can we? Won’t they just do it again? These are examples and questions that often have no easy answers, and my message today is probably not going to provide them. That’s because there often are no easy answers in these types of situations. But to the extent that we know the Bible and have God’s word stored in our heart, we will have His divine help in dealing with such problems.
Let’s begin to look to God’s word to find the answers we need. Look at Matthew 18:21-35:
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?"
22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,’ he begged, `and I will pay back everything.’
27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. `Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 "Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,’ he said, `I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.
33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." NIV
In Matthew 18:21, Peter asks Jesus, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? Peter is not just asking a question, but he is also saying what he already thinks is a very generous standard, to forgive someone not just once or twice, but up to seven times. By the way Peter says this, he probably expected Jesus to be impressed by his attitude of forgiving someone up to seven times.
After all, how many of us would or even could forgive a person who has wronged us not just once, not just twice, not three times, but as many as seven times! Forgiveness becomes harder and harder for us to do as someone repeatedly wrongs us. We start saying things to ourselves like, "Wait a minute. This person keeps ‘sticking it to me,’ says he’s sorry and asks me to forgive him. If he were really sorry, he wouldn’t keep doing it." Then because that’s the way we often think, we start thinking that God says the same thing about us when we keep confessing the same sin to Him. We think that because we find it harder and harder to forgive another person, that God in the same way finds it harder and harder to forgive us. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.