Summary: From a "Games People Play" series on the Sermon on the Mount, this is a message about forgiveness.
Games People Play: “Sorry!”
INTRODUCTION: "Sorry!" is a board game based on the ancient Indian game Pachisi. Players try to travel around the board with their pieces faster than any other player. The game title comes from the many ways in which a player can negate the progress of another, while issuing an apologetic "Sorry!" I used to cheat at this game with my sons when they were little, but not in my favor! I would cheat to help them do better, because it really is so hard to say “I’m sorry.” The game should be named “Sorry, but …” since the sorrow is minimized by the subsequent action. “Sorry, but I’m just doing what the card says.” (Oh yeah? Well, if you were REALLY sorry, you wouldn’t send my piece back to start!) But we hear that a lot in real life:
• "We're going in a different direction ... Sorry."
• “We’re letting you go … Sorry.”
• “I’m leaving you … Sorry.”
The implicit message is “I feel kinda bad, but really I’m justified.” And that can be true sometimes. But we get into trouble when we try to play the “Sorry, but ...” card with God. What we really mean is, “Sorry, God, but really I’m justified.”
• “I’m sorry, but the snake told me it was okay to eat that.”
• “I’m sorry, but the woman you made gave me some to eat.”
• “I’m sorry, but he was such a jerk that he deserved what I said to him.”
• “I’m sorry, but my spouse isn’t meeting my needs.”
Real sorrow, though, isn’t followed by the word “but.” It’s “I’m sorry—I’m so so sorry.” Have you ever found yourself saying that? Feeling that? What do we do when we’re truly, genuinely, desperately sorry? Sorry before God? Sorry before someone else? Sorry when it’s not a game? What do we do with that? [READ Matthew 6:9-15]
I. FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT
A. “Forgive us our debts” renders the Greek literally. Luke 11:4, however, refers to “sins,” as do vv. 14-15. Spiritual debts to God are first of all in view. Sin incurs a debt that must be discharged.
B. If you forgive someone a debt they owe you, you’ve given them a gift.
1. If someone owes you $50, and you forgive that debt, then you’ve given them a $50 gift.
2. If you owe someone $1000, and they forgive that debt, they’ve given you a $1000 gift.
3. If you owe someone your life, and they forgive that debt …
II. FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT GOD OFFERS TO US
A. Sin is likened to a debt because it deserves to be punished. But when God forgives sin, He remits the penalty and drops the charge against us.
B. [Illustration] I once got an “A” on an average paper in seminary. When the professor gave me the A, did I go back to him and say, "You ought to reread that paper. I really wasn’t that good." No! I accepted the A. Why? Because the one in authority had given me that A. It’s the same way with Jesus Christ. If I tell you you’re forgiven, that plus $3 will get you a latte. But, if Jesus tells you, “you’re forgiven,” then you’re forgiven. He’s the king at the right hand of the Father; his enemies are his footstool.
C. Forgiveness is as indispensable to the life and health of the soul as food is for the body.
1. Cartoon pictures a psychologist listening to a patient: “Mr. Figby, I think I can explain your feelings of guilt. You’re guilty!”
2. [Application] Let’s stop playing the “Sorry, but” card with God. Let’s stop trying to justify ourselves, and instead ask for His forgiveness.
>>And then, let’s do that for each other as well.
III. FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT GOD EXPECTS US TO GIVE TO OTHERS
A. Vv. 14-15 certainly does not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. It is rather that God forgives only the penitent and that one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit.
1. How could it be otherwise? If I have an unforgiving spirit, it bears witness to the fact that I have never repented.
2. Augustine labeled this request for forgiveness as “the terrible petition” because if we harbor an unforgiving spirit while we pray to be forgiven in the same way we forgive others, we are actually asking God not to forgive us!
3. The fact that the plea to avoid temptation is placed between the petition concerning forgiveness and its further elaboration could suggest that the temptation primarily in view is the temptation to be bitter, the temptation to maintain a veneer of true spirituality even while one’s secret attitudes are bursting with the corruption of grapes gone sour.