I read a quote this week which said, “I taught my kids about taxes by eating 28% of their ice-cream!” Now there is an illustration that will hit home! There is something about storytelling which catches us off guard. We think stories are nice and so we approach them with our guard down however, they subvert our defenses and get under our skin. They penetrate our heart and change our mind even before we have had a chance to think logically! Jesus knew this and exploited it by using parables to teach some pretty hard hitting truths! When we read parables we should be bamboozled!
My text this morning is Matthew 18:21-35 and deals with forgiveness. Peter’s question is one I have asked the Lord myself, a dozen times (if not more). It naturally flows from Jesus’ teaching on reconciling with a member of the church who has sinned against us. Peter asks, “Jesus, I have been thinking about what you said. I need some more clarity. Tell me, how many times should we forgive? Surely 7 times is enough, right?” To which Jesus replies “7, hardly, try 70!”
How would I summarise this passage? We are to forgive without limit because we have been forgiven without limit. If we don’t this we will suffer emotionally and spiritually! In fact Jesus goes so far as to say the failure to forgive actually casts doubt on the genuineness of a person’s discipleship! Sobering thoughts…
But I also live in the unreal world (Occasionally referred to as the real world). This heavenly truth must be lived out in the conditions in which we live (On earth as it is in heaven). Confronting someone who has wronged you and hurt you is hard work but I think confronting the hurt within us is even harder. When we do this we expose the most vulnerable part of our emotions. We feel exposed and it is natural for us to want to hide or protect ourselves. Let me tell you (from a little experience), if you hold on to un-forgiveness it will not only eat away at your soul, it will affect your relationships with those you love and the one who loves you, God! The only path to spiritual freedom is the path of forgiveness. It is not an easy journey and sometimes it can take years of small daily decisions to forgive.
Here are 5 things I have learnt about forgiveness. Some are drawn from the passage and others drawn from experience.
- Forgiveness is a decision. Sometimes a daily one.
- Forgiveness starts by acknowledgeing the depth of sin, hurt or pain caused by the person who has wronged us!
- Forgiveness unlocks our hearts from the burden of sin. Unforgiveness is a dead weight we carry around in the pit of our soul.
- Forgiveness opens the future. Unforgiveness can so often define our day to day. Forgiveness on the other hand frees us from the weight.
- Forgiveness is the way of the cross! It won’t be easy and it will require of you to die to self!
Please, I beg of you, if you are harboring unforgiveness please let it go. I have seen (even experienced) what it can do your soul! I think Psalm 103:7–10 explains the way fairly clearly…
“7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”