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MATTHEW 18: 21 ¡V 35

JULY 21, 2002

INTRODUCTION: Rev. Dr. David E. Leininger of First Presbyterian Church Warren, Pennsylvania tells the story of a man who loved dogs. He served as a speaker in various civic clubs to benefit the SPCA: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was known far and wide as a dog lover. One day his neighbor observed as he poured a new sidewalk form his house out to the street. About the time he smoothed out the last square foot of cement a large dog strayed across his sidewalk leaving footprints in his wake. The man muttered something under his breath and smoothed out the footprints. He went inside to get some twine to string up around the sidewalk only to discover dog tracks in two directions on his new sidewalk. He smoothed those out and put up the twine. About five minutes later he looked out and the footprints indicated that the dog had cleared the fence, landed on his sidewalk and proceeded as he desired. The man was mad now. He toweled the wet concrete smooth again. As he got back to the porch he saw the dog come over and sit right in the middle of his sidewalk. He went inside got his gun and came out and shot the dog dead. The neighbor rushed over, ¡§Why did you do that?¡¨ he inquired, ¡§I thought you loved dogs.¡¨ The man responded as he cradled his gun in the crook of his arm. ¡§I do like dogs. But that¡¦s in the abstract. I hate dogs in the concrete.¡¨

I wonder if it might not be the same for forgiveness. We love it in the abstract, but when we really have something to forgive, we hate it in the concrete.

Rev. Dr. Leininger goes on to quote Louis Untermeyer in his biography of poet Heinrich Heine as he describe the spirit of the world: ¡§Forgive was not Hein¡¦e business nor his specialty. ¡§My nature is the most peaceful in the world,¡¨ he wrote with deceptive mildness. ¡§All I ask is a simple cottage, a decent bed, good food, some flowers in front of my window, and a few trees beside my door. Then, if God wanted to make me completely happy, he would let me enjoy the spectacle of six or seven of my enemies dangling from those trees. I would forgive them all the wrongs they have done me ¡V forgive them from the bottom of my heart, for we must forgive our enemies. But not until they are hanged!?

TRANSITION THOUGHT: Today our text is one of those we don¡¦t like in the concrete. Yes, in the abstract we like to talk about love and forgiveness, but when it comes right down to it, if you make me mad, hurt my feelings, don¡¦t think like I do, disagree with my opinion, argue with me, don¡¦t see things my way, and the list goes on, I WON¡¦T FORGIVE YOU!! Then we read what Jesus says on the matter and we think, yes that¡¦s right, we must forgive. BUT, do we practice what we preach? Do we live it? Would our spouse say so? Would our kids say so? Would those we go to church with say so? WOULD JESUS SAY SO?

Today, we are going to look at this truth again, hear afresh what our Lord says on the matter of forgiveness and learn to GET OVER IT!

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