Summary: Why did Jesus think forgiveness is so important
Story: An atheist was sitting under a tree one day smugly thinking:
"God, I know you don’t exist - but it you did - you must really be stupid.
You created a huge oak tree to carry this little acorn and such a puny plant to carry a marrow.
Now, if I had been you, I’d have created the oak tree to carry the marrow and the marrow plant to carry the acorn.
As he was reflecting on his wisdom, an acorn suddenly fell and hit him on the head. Without thinking he exclaimed:
Thank God that wasn’t a marrow!!
So often we think we know better than God – yet so often our ways are not God’s ways – as the Parable of the Unmerciful servant in Mt 18 (which our drama group this morning acted for us) shows
And one of those areas in which our ways are not God’s ways is in the area of forgiveness
Why is forgiveness so important ?
Because forgiveness goes to the heart of the Christian Gospel.
Peter sets the back drop for the Parable by asking the question:
How many times shall I forgive my brother?
And Jesus answers Peter by telling him a story – the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
Quote: It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Jesus - with his parables - paints a wonderful picture with words!
Let’s just look at the story again
Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Scene 1. A King settles accounts one day with his servants and finds one who owes an unpayable amount in those days – ten thousand talents.
So the man falls down on his knees and begs for mercy
Why was he worried – becasue in those days the man’s whole family could be sold into slavery to pay off that debt.
So the King has mercy and lets the man off his debt.
Scene 2 That servant then finds another servant who owes him a hundred denarii – quite an amount when you consider that a denarius was one day’s pay – but nothing compared to the ten talents that he has been let off.
However that second servant does not have enough money to pay off the debt begs for mercy.
However, unlike the King, the first servant has no mercy and throws him into the debtor’s prison
Scene 3. The other servants grass on the first servant because they think it is unfair
And so the King calls the unmerciful servant in.
He tells him that because he had received mercy from the King, he should have shown mercy on his fellow servant.
And the upshot is that the first servant, instead of going free, loses the remission of his debt – and is thrown into the debtors’prison – because he would not forgive the second servant his debt
Jesus is simply saying: That’s how God’s mercy works.
If you want God to forgive you – you have to forgive others
Jesus ’s teaching was revolutionary in its day - because he lived in a society where “a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye” ruled the day.
Forgiveness wasn’t on the menu!
Come to think of it – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is quite a modern idea too!
So why is forgiveness important
1. The first reason is because Jesus’ ministry was to bring God’s forgiveness to us
We had broken God’s law – we deserved death – but Jesus came and died in our place on the Cross and offers us forgiveness of sin.
However, when we become Christians, God wants us to have the same compassion for others as He has had for us.
This often means we need to change our attitudes.
We are called to be Christlike – to become more like Jesus.
And one of those attributes of Christ that we are called to have is the ability to forgive.
Story: Gordon Wilson had a daughter Marie,
who was killed in the IRA bombing of Enniskillen on 8 Nov 1987.
As a committed Christian, he said this about the feelings he had to those who killed his daughter.
"I bear no ill-will against those responsible for this. That sort of talk will not bring her back to life. I shall pray for those people tonight and every night.
I know there has to be a plan even though we might not understand it. God is good and we shall meet again."
2. The second reason I think forgiveness is important is because Jesus knews that unforgiveness breeds resentment – which will ruin our lives
Story: When I was working for a Swiss multinational in Basle, Switzerland, I lived over the border in a town called Loerrach in the early 1980’s.