Summary: If you are a genuine Christian, you will be both willing and able to forgive others. According to Jesus, when you say, “I cannot or will not forgive,” you’re essentially saying, “I am thinking about going to hell.”
We are in the last installment of a sermon series entitled Digging Deeper. Our goal is to answer this question: WHAT makes Christianity more “sticky” in some? What is the PROOF that determines if a person truly follows Christ? Or, What makes a Christian a Christian?
We lose a lot of items in life. I lost my car keys on occasion. Some will lose their money by misplacing inside a different pocket. Some lose their reputation or respect. Yet, one of our greatest risks is that we may loose heaven itself. Heaven is also the eternal home of anyone who obeys God and loves His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said that we risk losing heaven itself if we hold fast to an unforgiving attitude: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Forgiveness for Christ’s disciples isn’t an option. It isn’t icing on the cake of Christianity. If we don’t experience forgiveness and offer it to others, then we will perish in our sins.
What does Christ say to a person who says, “I just cannot forgive?” What does Christ say to the person who says, “I will not forgive?” According to Jesus, when you say, “I cannot or will not forgive,” you’re essentially saying, “I am thinking about going to hell.”
Today’s Big Idea: If you are a genuine Christian, you will be both willing and able to forgive others.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:21-35).
There are very few of us who like to chase quarrels. We would rather escape them at most any cost. Most of us long for harmony at home, …uncomplicated friendships, and unity in church. Yet, despite our longing for harmony, it often eludes us. In a 1988 Gallup poll on forgiveness, 94 percent of those surveyed said that it is important to forgive. Yet, only 48 percent said they make it a practice to forgive. A Gallup Poll determined that 94% of those polled thought that forgiveness was essential, but 85% said they would need outside help to do so.
Forgiveness is an emotionally charged subject. Forgiveness is about the resolution of conflicts. Yet, conflicts are so messy. Oftentimes, there seems little or no clear-cut solutions to the family conflicts in our lives.
Jesus offers a story on forgiveness. Jesus’ parable reinforces His words about the necessity of forgiveness for His children in Matthew 6:14-15 and in the Lord’s Prayer Matthew 6:12. Forgiveness for the disciple isn’t an option. Remember the Lord’s Prayer? “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
1. Confusion on Forgiveness
Forgiveness is emotionally hard work. It’s often complicated by the fact of nagging questions. When I mention the word “forgiveness,” many of you automatically think about your abusive parents, or the sexual abuse you’ve received from an uncle… or your spouse is insensitive and they give you the silent treatment.