Summary: Forgiveness is difficult to practice especially when one is greatly hurt or disappointed. We cannot forgive by our power, but must trust God for the grace to do so.
THE GRACE FOR FORGIVENESS
Study Text: Matthew 18:21-22
- After listening to Jesus’ teaching on reconciliation, unity, restoration and forgiveness, Peter asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
- Peter thought seven times would be very generous. He expected to be commended for his gracious attitude. Jesus’ answer surprised Peter. Peter’s problem was that he was still thinking in terms of justice and legality.
- Jesus’ reply was not based on law and justice, but based on the gospel of grace. “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,'” (Matt. 18:22) meaning without limit!
- You see a lot of ugliness in life from an unwillingness to forgive. When we can’t or won’t forgive each other relationships are destroyed more and more as time passes.
- Husbands and wives who won’t forgive, find the marriage drifting apart more and more. They might live under the same roof but there is no love. There’s hardly communication. And when they do communicate, it’s usually more fuel on the fire.
- People who won’t forgive wrongs done in the workplace grow increasingly bitter. They resent the employee or employer who wronged them. And that grows into bitterness that clouds our vision so we can’t be objective anymore.
- Is it any wonder that God tells his people to forgive one another. He loves us too much to want us to go down the destructive road of unforgiveness. That’s why he gives us a call to forgive.
- Our inability to forgive takes a huge toll on us emotional which not only causes us to suffer but it strains every relationship we have. We may think that the only relationship that suffers is the one with the person who has offended us, but that is not true. When we are unwilling to forgive, bitterness and anger spills over into every other relationship in our lives – including our relationship with God.
- On a spiritual level, not being willing to forgive others has a huge effect on us because it breaks down our ability to connect with God. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus said that if we are not willing to forgive others, then God is not willing to forgive us. Matthew 6:15.
- Without God’s forgiveness and grace flowing into our lives, our spiritual lives stop growing and begins to decline. The longer we hold that grudge the farther away from God we move.
- Over time, an unforgiving spirit not only poisons every relationship but every part of our lives. It destroys us. We think not forgiving someone will not have any negative effect on us but hurt the other person but the truth is that many times the other person doesn’t even know we are holding a grudge so they are fine, but we are the ones slowly dying because of the stress, depression and spiritual isolation that our un-forgiveness creates.
- We must be willing to forgive others at all times and be willing to seek forgiveness when we wronged
- We shall discuss the topic under three sub-headings:
1. The Pathway to Forgiveness
2. The Parable on Forgiveness
3. The Practice of Forgiveness
1. The Pathway to Forgiveness
- We need to stop thinking about how often we need to forgive others and remember why Jesus tells us to forgive.
- We need to forgive because it is the only way we will be healthy in body, mind and spirit.
- In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus likewise taught, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
- Again, the disciples were surprised and said, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). This is proper. Only when we grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and increase in faith, will we also increase in forgiveness and mercy. Then we will understand that we live every moment of our lives, not on the basis of justice, but on the basis of mercy received from heaven.
- Justice would have sent us to hell. How soon Christians forget and begin to act on the basis of law and justice! We need greater faith, greater love for God and greater appreciation of God’s grace, in order that we may rise to this level of practicing unlimited forgiveness to our brothers and sisters.
- The following steps will lead to true and lasting forgiveness:
i. Seek to understand.
- What is it that shapes the other person’s heart and life. Many people hurt or offend others because there is some unresolved hurt or pain in their lives. Many times there are clear reasons why people have hurt us and when we seek to understand them it opens the door to forgiveness.