Summary: What kind of behavior does God’s forgiveness demand of us?

Free to Forgive

I Introduction

This is a parable of forgiveness

If this were an allegory, each act of the King would be a statement about God

But our God does not condone selling into slavery or physical torture

Parables have a single message

The message of this parable tells us something important about God’s mercy

II Calculating forgiveness

I don’t know why, but I like Peter

Maybe it is because, like me, he always engages his mouth before operating his brain

He poses a question to Jesus, then suggests what he thinks is the best answer – 7 times

Was he exhibiting his human desire to impress the Boss?

Or perhaps practicing a little one-up-man ship on the other disciples?

You see Peter was used to the Old Testament law

The Biblical proof that this was correct was taken from Amos. In the opening chapters of Amos there is a series of condemnations on the various nations for three transgressions and for four (Am.1:3,6,9; Am.1:11,13; Am.2:1,4,6).

From this it was deduced that God’s forgiveness extends to three offenses and that he visits the sinner with punishment at the fourth.

It was not to be thought that a man could be more gracious than God, so forgiveness was limited to three times.

So Peter doubled that and added one more for good measure and thought this would really show Jesus that he was getting His message

Well guess what? Jesus said, “Not 7, but 77 times.”

Like us Peter thought there ought to be some limit to forgiveness

III Seeking and Receiving Forgiveness

What is forgiveness anyway?

In terms of human relationships, in the workplace, the neighborhood, the community or in the church it is reconciliation – a bringing together of differing views.

Then why is it so hard to forgive?

Because we can’t forget.

When someone makes fun of us, embarrasses us in public or, worse yet, causes us or a loved one physical or emotional harm we may find it impossible to forgive.

I recently realized that I had never forgiven a man who abused our youngest daughter when she was a child even though he has been dead for many years.

It caused her much suffering years later as an adult

As her parents, we felt her pain and our inability to help

I am not sure why I have not been able to forget and forgive this man

I have come to suspect that there are two reasons:

One is because he was a really annoying person and I never did like him much even though he was family by marriage

The other is because I contributed to our daughter’s pain and suffering by making a bad decision

At the time I chose not to confront him in order not to cause problems within our family

The part I can never forgive is the message my actions sent to our daughter, which was:

I do not love you enough to take a stand for you

I often wonder if that message was not actually her greatest source of pain

I am not sure if I will ever forget or forgive that man or myself

In a Bible study, Rev. Harold Davis once told us:

If you can’t forget it, you can’t forgive it

Forgiving is tough work

IV Denying Forgiveness

Have you ever been caught up in a situation in which wrongs were done and then wrongs were done in return so that the conflict continued?

Almost any church conflict or any conflict situation at all, is based on such behavior

As long as the blaming and the wrongs continue, the problem continues

Only when one side says “I’m sorry” and the other side says “I forgive you. Let’s start again,” can the conflict end.

Attempts at reconciliation often don’t work or don’t last.

Why is that?

One reason is that one or the other did not consider the reconciliation very real to begin with.

To them, it was only a truce until they gained an advantage rather than a genuine forgiveness of wrongs.

But the main reason is that we do not recognize or appreciate how far God had to come to forgive us.

Paul understood when he said: Christ died for us!

As long as nations, peoples, and individuals continue to return evil for evil, the chain of evil will continue.

Only forgiveness can break the chain.

V Extending genuine forgiveness

When we fail to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us, we indicate that we did not get the message of this parable!

This parable is about God’s amazing grace!

God forgives us when we do not deserve it, and asks us to show the same spirit of compassion and forgiveness to others.

This parable reminds us that the church is a community called to reflect God’s forgiving mercy and the self-sacrificing love of Christ.

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