Summary: The calling for "forgive, just as Jesus has forgiven you," and the quote from Jesus in the Model Prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," makes forgiveness a command, not a good thought or request.
Forgiveness Is Difficult
A. He was betrayed by Judas and openly denied by Peter. At his trial no one stood beside him to defend him. He was accused based upon lies and misrepresentation of his words. Pilate knew he was innocent, but as a politician his position in government was of greater value than the life of a commoner. He listened as the religious leaders incited the crowd to call out, “crucify him! Crucify him!”
B. Jesus was beaten with whips, a crown of thorn driven into his head, he was forced to drag his cross through the streets of Jerusalem then outside the gate, but he fell. Then he was crucified between two thieves as an insurrectionist. While on the cross he cried out a several times, but one is particularly difficult to accept. Jesus prayed to God on behalf of all those who denied him, left him, called for his death and, in truth, he prayed on behalf of every person who has sinned. Jesus prayed for me as he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
C. How do you forgive for those who hurt you, desire to kill you, or friends who deny your relationship? As the song says, “He could have called ten thousand angels, but he died alone, for you and me.”
D. When Jesus gave us the model of prayer, he would end that teaching by telling us that when we pray we should say, “Forgive us debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” In our congregational reading we read that we should “forgive each other, as the Lord has forgiven us.” Based upon the model prayer in Matt. 6, the statement of Jesus upon the cross and Paul’s teaching about forgiving others, the question is, “Do we understand and practice forgiveness to the level that is commanded of us?”
E. Pray with me.
I. The Forgiveness of Jesus
A. This month I have tried to consider some of the characteristics that Jesus showed us in his human form. I reflected upon his call to repent and need to teach and practice repentance; his compassion and how I can show that compassion to others; his prayer life and how I can grow in prayer; and now I conclude with the way in which he forgave and the calling for me to forgive in the same manner.
B. Holding on to my anger does not benefit me but often causes me to resent another for some perceived or real wrong-doing that has been done. To forgive takes both my mind and my emotions working together in order for it to accomplish what God calls of me.
C. How many people did Jesus extend forgiveness to? When it came to the cross, Jesus died for the sin of all mankind. It is tempting to justify my anger, but forgiveness calls me to think not just feel. I must think about the situation from God’s perspective, not my emotions. This is not easy. The difficulty for me is Jesus forgave me before I repented. I did not receive the blessing of that forgiveness until I repented, but he forgave me before I repented. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.
D. The way Jesus forgives is the standard by which I should forgive others. Forgiveness is not about personal therapy, even though it does help us when we forgive others. It not something that sounds nice do when I grow old and face death; it is commanded of me to do right now if I expect God to forgive me.
E. We talk about how we will be judged in the same way we judge others, but we need also to remember will be forgiven in the same manner that that we forgive others. Forgiveness is difficult because it goes against our internal system of justice. But the calling is for me to let go being God in each case. God will judge a person for their deeds and I know that if He chooses to send them to hell because of their sin against me, it will be based upon His justice, not mine. Forgiveness lets go of me being the judge and leaves it with God so that I can continue to walk in holiness.
II. The Practice of Forgiveness
A. Let’s move away from theory and into practice. I hurt more when I wronged by someone I care about than when I am wronged by someone I don’t have a deep relationship. The bully can might bring me down, cause me to reflect poorly upon myself or embarrass me; but when someone I care for deeply is the bully it takes on a different level of hurt.
B. When Paul writes to the churches in Ephesus and Colossae, he writes sections that are almost identical. In both letters, Paul teaches about forgiving like Jesus. I want to come back to Col. 3 and walk through a few thoughts. Listen to Col. 3:1-3. If I SEEK (take the action of learning and knowing) and if I SET MY MIND (make the decision to follow what I know), then I can achieve the depth of transformation that Christ desires. To help me understand the transformation process, Paul tells me in vs 5 to “put to death” certain things; vs 8 to “put them all away,” and in vs 9 to “put off the old self.” His point is, there is some house cleaning that needs to take place inside of me if I am going to call myself a disciple of Jesus.