Summary: We are told to forgive because God forgave us. We can do that when we take off the old garments of bitterness and anger and replace them with love, compassion and humility. Today we'll see Jesus communicating how serious forgiving others is.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF FORGIVENESS
Last week we looked into the subject of forgiveness. I started by saying we first had to answer the question of whether or not we want to forgive. And if we do we need to determine how to go about it.
We looked at Paul's words in Eph., and Col. and saw that we are told to forgive because God forgave us. And we are able to do that when we choose to take off the old garments of bitterness, anger, rage, slander and malice and replace it with being clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Today, we're going to be delving into some statements from Jesus that communicate how important it is for us to forgive. Forgiveness is serious in the eyes of God. How serious? Well, let's find out.
1) Don't put it off.
Matt. 5:21-24, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."
Jesus is addressing the sins of the mouth and heart here. He's taking it further than just the act of murder and the consequences derived from that. Jesus is saying that if one were to slander a fellow Jew by saying, 'Raca', which means, 'empty-head' and in today's world it would be like calling someone stupid or moron. Jesus is saying if you do this you will answer to the religious officials.
However, if your viciousness goes so far as to call someone a fool, you'll be in danger of hellfire. This doesn't compute with us who think calling someone a fool isn't that big of a deal. But if a person said this back then they would really be calling someone Godless (the fool says in his heart there is no God). Which in today's language it would be like telling someone to 'go to hell' or that they're going to hell.
Basically, Jesus is saying if this is your sincere wish for your fellow man then you are in danger of judgment. Therefore, since this is the seriousness of our venomous thoughts and words, Jesus doesn't want us to put off reconciliation. Jesus doesn't want us to continue to perform our religious duties if there's unforgiveness and animosity between me and my brother or sister in Christ.
I can see the importance because if I have committed the offense of saying nasty things to my fellow Christian and then come to church and conduct my spiritual disciplines there's something wrong. It's contradictory if I'm showing love toward God yet all along there's a wedge between me and my brother. God doesn't want me to put off dealing with this situation. He doesn't want the negativity to continue.
Unforgiveness gets in the way of the relationship between me and God. I can't properly engage spiritually when the black mark of resentment exists between me and my brother. This is especially true when it is between two members of the same church. How well am I going to engage with God when I have ill feelings towards the one who is sitting nearby me? How plentiful and uplifting will my praise and worship be when all along I know that there is someone in the room with whom I'm at odds with?
Now, if I've tried to correct the situation but the other person is unwilling to; that's different. I can't do much with that except pray for them. But I need to ask myself, have I done my best to resolve and reconcile? Or did I try to talk to them once and since they didn't seem receptive I just wrote it off? Could I try again? Did I communicate my love for them and that it bothers me that we have this problem and that it's not God's will for us to be this way?
We need to see the importance that God places on forgiveness. He wants us to do our best to resolve these negative situations so that Satan doesn't continue to have a foothold. A little yeast can work through the whole batch of dough.
One of the problems is when two people have issues with each other instead of resolving it between them they talk to other people about it. So, if I'm your friend I might develop an issue with that person too. Then that negative spirit blossoms and grows and starts to take down the church. Jesus wants us to attack it and resolve it before it becomes even more spiritually debilitating than it already is.