Summary: I talk about why we are mandated to forgive others.
Why Do We Have To Forgive?
Here are some warning signs that might show if you feel you are having a hard time forgiving someone: 1). You feel revenge is the ONLY solution. 2). You have thoughts of hatred towards another. 3). You would not come to their aid if they needed help. 4). Any chance of reconciliation would have to be initiated by the other party.
Jesus taught about the need for forgiveness. In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus tells a story about forgiveness. Another word for this kind of story is a parable which was a story that communicated a spiritual or heavenly truth. Let’s look at what this parable says about why we are to forgive.
1. We are supposed to forgive because Jesus says it is not an option for his people.
In verse 21 Peter asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” We need to keep in mind here that a Jewish custom was floating around during this time that you were able to forgive a person three times for one specific sin. After that, you didn’t have to. So, when Peter said, “up to seven times” he was actually willing to go beyond the norm. But Jesus then speaks up and says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This was His way of saying “however many times it takes.” In other words, don’t hold grudges!
I want to give a definition of forgiveness that is straight out of several scriptures. It is “resisting revenge (Romans 12:19), not returning evil for evil (1Thess. 5:15), wishing them well (Luke 6:25), grieving at their calamities (Proverbs 24:17), praying for their welfare (Matt. 5:44), seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you (Rom. 12:18), and coming to their aid in distress (Exodus 23:14). Forgiveness is as much an attitude as it is an act. We will get into more detail in a moment. But let us keep in mind that this is exactly the kind of forgiveness that Jesus was talking about. Sounds nothing like what you hear on the talk shows today.
2. Why do we have to forgive? Because our mandate to forgive others has its roots in God forgiving us. Vs. 23-27
As we look at the text we see that the servant owed a tremendous debt. We are talking 10 million dollars worth of debt. It was more than he could ever repay. As a matter of fact it would take him several lifetimes. And how could he possibly do it in jail? His family and friends were going to have to take care of that. So, we see that the servant was in an impossible situation.
You and I are in an impossible situation. We owe a debt to God that we could not possibly pay back. The bible teaches us that all humans continually fall short of God’s best. Even on our best days we deserve punishment from God for our sins. We rebel against him. We can never measure up to a perfect God. But in his great mercy he brought us back. He has forgiven our sins although we deserve complete annihilation and separation. Jesus was the answer. We could not possibly solve our problem on our own. We needed help. We couldn’t possibly pay the debt we owe to God. That’s why God sent forth his Son. He paid the debt so we didn’t have to go to prison.
You and I would probably agree that it is very easy to forgive the small stuff. You know, like leaving the toilet seat up, or staying out a few minutes past curfew or breaking that very expensive vase at grandmothers house. But what about the “big stuff” like abuse, murder, and infidelity? Does God want us to forgive those too? Yes. A hundred times yes. Why should we? Because we are guilty of the same sins against God. You may say, “well, I have never been unfaithful to my spouse.” But there are times when we are unfaithful to God. We may say, “I haven’t killed anyone?” Maybe not with our hands but with our words through gossip and slander.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Our mandate to forgive others has its root in God forgiving us first.
ILLUSTRATION: A father and his son had a very rocky relationship. The son hurt the father very much by his words and deeds. Years went by and neither the father or the son spoke to one another. Finally the father put an ad in the local paper simply saying: “Dear Paco: All is forgiven. I love you. I want you to come home. Please meet me in front of the hardware store at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Wouldn’t you know—100 Pacos showed up that next morning to receive forgiveness from their father. Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, pp. 13.