Today, we will conclude our series on "Finding Freedom In Forgiving Others." In doing so, I want us to think together about how our Savior tells us that we, as His followers, are called to live differently than the world. (READ TEXT)
In our passage for today, Jesus encourages His followers to rise above the judgmental life lived by others to live a life characterized by graciousness. Let’s notice what He had to say about gracious living.
1. The nature of gracious living - v. 37
Gracious living is characterized by non-judgementalism, by acceptance of others, by forgiveness, and by giving of oneself to others. Interestingly enough, the description given here by Jesus of gracious living sounds similar to what Paul said about love:
"Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!" - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (CEV)
The Christian who lives graciously does not go about looking for faults in others or trying to analyze their motives. Instead, they try to think the best of others, say the best about others, and do their best for others. The best thing we can do is to accept people as they are and not try to analyze them and judge them. Often, things are not as they seem to us.
An engineer, a psychologist, and a theologian were hunting in the wilds of northern Canada. They came across an isolated cabin, far removed from any town. Because friendly hospitality is a virtue practiced by those in the wilderness, the hunters knocked on the door to ask permission to rest.
No one answered their knocks, but, discovering the cabin was unlocked, they entered. It was a simple place-two rooms with a minimum of furniture and household equipment. Nothing was surprising about the cabin except the stove. It was large, pot-bellied, and made of cast iron. What was unusual was its location: it was suspended in mid-air by wires attached to the ceiling beams.
"Fascinating," said the psychologist. "It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the womb."
"Nonsense!" replied the engineer. "The man is practicing the laws of thermodynamics. By elevating his stove, he has discovered a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin."
"With all due respect," interrupted the theologian, "I’m sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has religious meaning. Fire lifted up has been a religious symbol for centuries."
The three debated the point for several minutes without resolving the issue. When the trapper finally returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his heavy potbellied stove by wires from the ceiling.
His answer was succinct: "Had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe!"
A Christian who lives graciously, understands that things are not always as they seem, so he seeks to refrain from making rash judgments.
2. The benefits of gracious living - v. 38
Jesus says that if we are not judgmental , then others will not judge us. If we are accepting, then others will accept us. If we are forgiving towards others, then they will forgive us. If we give of ourselves to others, then they will give back in kind. That which we receive from others will be in proportion to what we give them, and if we live graciously, the blessings we receive will add up to more than we can hold! Indeed, it is a divine law that our blessing will be consistent with our graciousness!
Many years ago, Chinese farmers theorized that they could eat their big potatoes and use the small ones for seed. Consequently, they ate the big potatoes and planted the small potatoes. As a result of this practice over the years, nature eventually reduced the size of all the potatoes they harvested to marbles. A new understanding of the law of life came to them. They learned through this bitter experience that they could not have the best things of life for themselves and use their leftovers for seed. The law of life decreed that the harvest would reflect the planting!
"[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings." - 2 Corinthians 9:6 (Amplified)
3. The requirement for gracious living - vs. 41-42
What is required if I am going to live the gracious life Christ calls me to?
An awareness of my own faults!
It is only when I have first dealt with my own faults that I am in a position to help someone else deal with theirs. We are to help one another deal with faults, but we are to do so graciously, not judgmentally. We need to be careful to be aware of our own faults and shortcomings as we seek to help others out with theirs.
A serviceman wrote about a bit of unintended comedy he witnessed in the army. In happened during a company inspection at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.
An inspection was being conducted by a colonel. Everything had gone smoothly until the officer came to the man standing next to the soldier who recalled the incident.
The colonel stopped, looked the man up and down, then snapped, "Button that pocket, trooper!"
The soldier, more than a little rattled stammered, "Right now, sir?"
"Of course right now! Was the reply.
Whereupon the soldier very carefully reached out and buttoned the flap on the colonel’s shirt pocket.
We need to check out our pockets before we can help others button theirs.
"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." - 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)
4. Our motivation in gracious living - v. 40
Our motive in living graciously with others is that as we learn to do so, we are becoming more like Jesus!
"God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." - John 3:17 (The Message)
The Father send Jesus into the world not to condemn, but to save. Therefore, the life of Jesus was one that demonstrated the love and grace of God to others. We are called to be the same way in our relationships with one another.
The world today is turned off by Christians who will not get along. Who bicker and fight, who demand their own way, who will not forgive and who will not reconcile, even if it means that churches split and people go to Hell.
The world sees the hypocrisy of such living by those who profess to follow Christ. Why can’t we as Christians recognize it as well?
The wonderful thing about our God is that He never calls to do something that He, by His grace will not enable us to do.
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." - 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV)
"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done." - 2 Corinthians 9:8 (The Message)
"He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." - 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NKJV)
She was number 66730. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister, Betsy. Her freedom, dignity, and humanity had been stripped away by those who imprisoned her, yet she survived. They robbed her of everything she possessed but they couldn’t rob her of the one who possessed her, Jesus. She saw every day in Ravensbruck as a chance to minister to someone more needy then herself, and then one day she was released. As suddenly as she had become a prisoner she was freed, and her solitary aim was to minister to others. When the war was over she began traveling and shared her Savior and the vision that He had given her. And then one day, something happened, something that shook her to the very center of her being. Why don’t I let her tell you in her own words? You probably wouldn’t know her as 66730. You would more likely know her as Corrie ten Boom.
"It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there, the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsy’s pain blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message Fraulein, " he said. "To think, as you say, He has washed my sins away!"
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendall the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man: was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that this worlds healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."