Story: An atheist was sitting under a tree one day smugly thinking:
"God, I know you don't exist - but it you did - you must really be stupid.
You created a huge oak tree to carry this little acorn and such a puny plant to carry a marrow.
Now, if I had been you, I'd have created the oak tree to carry the marrow and the marrow plant to carry the acorn.
As he was reflecting on his wisdom, an acorn suddenly fell and hit him on the head.
Without thinking he exclaimed:
Thank God that wasn't a marrow!!
How often do we have the ATTITUDE that we know better than God?
Our second reading was from Matthew 18 and Matthew 18 speaks a lot about attitudes.
Matthew 18 opens in verses 1-9 by talking about
1. The necessary attitude to get into the kingdom
Jesus said in verse 3:
..unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus then goes on to talk about
2. God’s attitude to us in verses 12-14
Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep to illustrate how God sees us before we are Christians
3. Last week our reading from Mt 18:15-20 was all about our attitude to conflict resolution in the Church
How are we meant to deal with conflicts with our brothers and sisters
4. And then finally in this week’s reading Mt 18 .21-35 Jesus speaks about forgiveness
Peter asked Jesus
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Peter thought he was being generous when he offered seven times
Jesus says no, seventy times seven. 490!
Pretty hard to find someone who needs forgiving more than that in any one day!
What does the word FORGIVENESS mean:
The Dictionary defines this as:
1. The State of being forgiven or
2. The Act of forgiving
The word "forgive" means
1. to pardon
2. to remit or let off a debt.
There are three aspects of forgiveness I want to look at
1. The State Of our sins being Forgiven.
2. The requirement however that we Forgive others.
3. The resultant healing and peace that forgiveness brings.
1. The State Of Our Sins Being Forgiven.
Man chose to go his own way and so SINNED.
The Scripture tells us that "the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:23).
Yet God has provided a way out.
God the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life to take the penalty of the sin of the world on Himself.
Jesus died on the Cross for our sakes.
Eph. 1:7 In him we have redemption through his Blood the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God's Grace.
Jesus' blood was shed for your sin and mine.
God has forgiven us so much that this has to affect our relationship to others too
2. The Act of Forgiveness of other people's sin
God will not forgive when we do not forgive.
Jesus taught this principle very clearly in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt: 18:21-35)
1. The parable opens with a King deciding to settle accounts one day
He finds a servant of his with a debt that was simply unpayable
But the man falls down on his knees and begs for mercy
for in Jesus’ time, the whole family could be sold into slavery to pay debts of the father
2. The King has pity and so he decides to forgive him his debt in total
3. We then have a second scene where the servant who has just been let off a fortune finds another servant who owes him a few pounds
Like the first man, the other servant begs for mercy
But unlike the King, the first servant has none
3. We then move to the final scene in which the King finds out about the callous heart of the first servant who had been let off so much
So the King calls the unmerciful servant in and tells him that because he had received mercy he should have shown mercy.
But since he didn’t have mercy on the fellow servant so the King will not have mercy oin him now
In the same way, Jesus says, how we act reflects how God will deal with us.
Jesus’ teaching was revolutionary in its day
Because forgiving those who wrong you was contrary to the religious teaching of the Jews of His day
The Parable goes to the heart of the Christian message.
1. We are all breakers of God's law but Jesus came to take the penalty of our sins on himself. In mercy God lets us off.
2. However, when we become Christians, God wants us to
change – so that our attitudes become like his attitudes.
One of these is that learn to forgive
Goes against the grain doesn't it?
We all like to be forgiven if we make a mistake, but are not so willing to forgive others.
Unforgiveness leads also to bitterness in our relation to people around us.
When I was living in Loerrach in the early 1980's I had a landlady, Frau Linder who told me that she did not talk to the neighbours because during the Second World War, they had not supported her in her stand against Hitler.
Probably the neighbours had even changed and she did not realise it.
This imagined hate against her neighbours had made her a bitter woman.
The result of unforgiveness is bitterness. And this leads to a lack of peace.
No wonder the scripture tells us: “Do not let the sun do down while you are still angry (Eph. 4:26)
Story. I remember how Corrie Ten Boon spoke of the difficulty she had in forgiving one of the guards in the concentration camp at Ravensbruck where she had been held and mistreated, who became a Christian after the second world war. Though by praying about it, she was able to.
In the Lord's prayer in Matt. 6:12 we read
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.
In other words, you are asking God to forgive you in the same measure that you forgive others.
If you are a miserable forgiver you are asking God to do the same to you.
Forgiveness releases not only the other but also you yourself.
Jesus actually commands us to forgive one another in a lot of place in the Gospels.
Here are a few:
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you.
If a brother sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says "I repent", forgive him.
God wants us to have the HEART OF THE FATHER.
A forgiving heart.
If we really love God we will forgive.
As Paul said in Col 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
This leads me to the result of forgiveness.
3. Forgiveness brings HEALING, PEACE and ABUNDANT LIFE.
3.1 The first result of forgiveness is HEALING
Some people remain bitter all their lives over real and apparent hurts.
By releasing forgiveness does not mean that we agree with what the person has done.
But it will release us from the roots of bitterness.
STORY: Some people are so aggressive that they can make Good Morning sound like a Declaration Of War.
Psalm 103:3 talks of the God who forgives all your sin and heals all your infirmities.
Many illnesses occur or are made worse because of bitterness and unforgiveness.
It is a medical fact that bitterness can bring us ill health. Peace on the other hand is the result of forgiveness and this brings with it healing.
Many people cannot forgive and land up committing suicide.
Forgiveness is healing.
In the book of Revelation, where a picture is given in Rev. 2:14 of what heaven will be like we read:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit yielding fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
I wonder if those leaves may well be leaves of forgiveness.
The Psalmist recognised that forgiveness results in health when he said:
Ps 41:4: O Lord have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.
3.2 The second result of Forgiveness is PEACE
Forgiveness brings with it Peace, a peace that the World cannot give.
In 1 John 4: 18, we read : There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
3.3. The final result of forgiveness is Abundant Life.
By forgiving we release the POWER OF GOD in our life, the forgiveness He brings.
Jesus in John 10.10b said: I am come that they might have life and have it in Abundance.
NOT a little but abundance.
Will you receive this GIFT of FORGIVENESS from Christ today and pass it on to others?