Summary: Forgiveness of others is essential for receiving forgiveness from God. It's also important for experiencing joy, discovering peace, and reconciling with our past.
I’m so glad that I have finally found a church where everyone is good to everyone all the time and no one ever gets their feelings hurt or does mean things to one another. I hope you detect the sarcasm I am using to make a point here. The truth is that we face the potential for hurt everywhere we go – even within the church
Even Christian people have flaws in their character and say and do things they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, we’re all likely to offend or hurt someone at some point. Ecclesiastes 7: 20 says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” But the difference I hope exists between the church and rest of the world is our willingness to ask for and extend forgiveness and mercy to one another.
Ephesians 4: 32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Colossians 3: 13, “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Today, I want to talk about the importance of forgiveness in the life of a Christian. I want you to see that forgiveness is a huge part of preparing your heart for revival. The Holy Spirit cannot operate unimpeded in our church family if we are harboring bitterness or resentment in our heart. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” In other words, I bet most people who hear this sermon today will have no problem agreeing with the truth of what I’m sharing. But, when we are hurt by someone, that particular situation will feel like it should be an exception to what we’re talking about today.
But we are called to forgive EVERY person who offends us – no matter what their offense against us is. That may seem like an impossibility to you right now. And perhaps you’re right – it IS impossible for YOU to forgive. But we’re going to talk today about allowing the forgiveness of God to work IN you and THROUGH you. The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of mercy, grace, and forgiveness toward others:
Hebrews 12: 15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Forgiveness is a salvation issue. I read that a man named General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley: “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied: “Then, sir, I hope that you never sin.” For you see, the scriptures seem to state that, if we are unwilling to forgive another person, we are choosing to cut off our own access to GOD’S forgiveness.
Matthew 6: 15, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus told a parable that illustrated how hypocritical it is of us to refuse to forgive another person. Perhaps His parable will help you understand why God takes such a seemingly tough stance on forgiveness for others and our own salvation.
Matthew 18: 23 – 27, ““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 bags of gold 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 “At this 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.”
I read one source that estimated the amount the man owed the king at around 25 million dollars. I’m not sure how you run up a debt that high, but there was no way he could repay it all. The king in this story represents God. The servant who owed the huge debt represents us. The Bible says that, because of our sin, we all owed a huge debt that we could not pay. We deserved death and eternal punishment. But, through the blood of Jesus, God has cancelled the sin debt of everyone who calls to Him for salvation.
But then Jesus shows us what our unwillingness to forgive others looks like in God’s eyes. Matthew 18: 28 – 30, “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. 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 it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.”