This week, we’re continuing our message series as we go through the parables of Jesus and learn from Him how to truly live life to its fullest.
A parable is a simple story that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus said that He taught using parables so that the secrets of His Kingdom would only be understood by those seeking after this revelation.
The last few weeks, we focused on the value and worth that we place on the Kingdom of Heaven and our relationship with Jesus. This week, we’re being challenged on the issue of forgiveness.
Life is hard. We live in a fallen world and we are a sinful people still wrapped in this weak flesh. There are times when we are going to be hurt, wounded, and offended. We were created with the need for relationships with one another. We were intentionally created very unique from every person around us. We also come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. As a result, relationships are complicated.
Much good can come from relationships and we do desperately need one another. However, there will be times when those relationships come at a cost and with risk involved. One thing that is guaranteed in this fallen world is that we will hurt, wound, and offend one another. There are times when people with evil intentions do it, well, intentionally. There are also times when people do so with no intent nor awareness that it happened.
Whether intentional or unintentional, the hurt is still the same. This hurt, if we don’t handle it correctly, can cause deep roots of bitterness, distrust, and hostility in our lives. We were never designed to carry any of these; neither the initial hurt nor the destruction that this hurt can cause us.
For our own good and benefit, God made a way for us to trade in all of these things for healing. God made a way for us to trade in all of this ugliness for restoration. The path that leads to this transfer is called forgiveness.
Now before we even go into learning about forgiveness, Jesus starts by teaching us how we are supposed to handle it when someone does sin against us. This applies whether intentional or unintentional.
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
This is where 90% of conflict and hurt is resolved, but it is the road not often travelled. It’s far easier to be hurt, talk to other people about that hurt, and allow them to console you and join in your crusade to share how bad that person is and how wrong they were. If we were to instead go and talk to that person one-on-one privately, our lives would contain so much more freedom and so much less baggage.
However, there is still that 10% chance that they did intend to hurt us and have no regret for doing so at all, then what?
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
I encourage you at this point to involve just a few others who can remain neutral in the conflict and preferably someone who cares about the both of you equally to discuss the issue. Sometimes our perspective is blinded by our hurt and anger and we don’t understand things accurately. Having a third party can help two individuals reach a level of mutual understanding of one another.
This step also can bring freedom and deliverance from abusive situations. Too often, people remain victims to another individual simply because they are afraid to reach out for help. Never face your situation alone, but use wisdom and God’s guidance in selecting who to confide in and how to safely proceed throughout the process from fear to freedom.
However, there is still a chance even at this point that the person meant to hurt you and still could care less about it. Well, Jesus teaches us how to handle that as well.
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
The church, our community and family of faith, we need each other. Now I remember the first time that I read this actually being offended by how Jesus said we should treat people who refuse to repent of their wrongdoing. Paul took it a step further and taught that if someone claims to be a Christian, but refuses to repent of their wicked ways, that we should hand such people over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5)!
Then, Jesus had me dig into His word a little bit with the question of how we are supposed to treat pagans, tax collectors, and those under the control of Satan. Well, we’re supposed to pray for them, gently teach and instruct them, give them the shirt off our back, walk the extra mile with them, etc. Rarely does conflict ever reach this point, however.
Jesus then goes on dealing with conflict and reminds us of the tremendous power of unity and togetherness that results when this conflict is dealt with correctly.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Now I love this because not once throughout the entire dialog leading up to this point did Jesus ever mention the ‘F’ word; forgiveness. However, Peter walks right up to Jesus in, what I believe to be the conviction and revelation of the Holy Spirit and asks this:
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
The path that leads to healing and restoration, no matter what a person who sins against us decides to do, is forgiveness. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person, but has everything to do with us.
I’ve heard it said that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to suffer; like holding a scolding hot pan and expecting the other person to burn; like sitting on a hornet thinking that you’re hurting it more than it’s hurting you; like wrapping yourself in chains and handing your offender the key.
Forgiveness is acknowledging fully the wrong that was done to us and the pain that it invoked in our lives. It is NOT brushing it under the rug, just getting over it, forgetting about it, nor ignoring it. Forgiveness is letting go of our closed-fisted need for vengeance so that our open hands can receive God’s healing. It is letting go of our red-faced anger so that we can receive peace. It is pulling up and ridding ourselves of the roots and vines of bitterness so that we can experience freedom.
Forgiveness is no longer handing over the knife that our offender keeps using to stab us with and taking back control of our own lives. Forgiveness is trusting God to heal us and to deal with our offender in His way and in His timing.
Jesus gave us this parable about the critical need to forgive that helps adjust our perspective on the subject.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Those who follow Jesus have received complete forgiveness for sinning against a perfect God who has never done anything wrong to us, but constantly provides for our every need. How then can we, who have been forgiven so much and still deserving of hell, hold other’s sins against them? Jesus takes it personally when we act like the servant in this parable.
He cares about it so much that He would rather see our relationships with one another reconciled, whole, and healthy than to receive our gifts!
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca (You idiot),’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
The choice to not forgive others is a choice to also reject our forgiveness from God. Forgiveness is an act of faith.
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
What God is asking of us is not easy. In fact, to forgive can be one of the most difficult things that we ever do in this lifetime. However, if we weigh out the benefits of what we receive from forgiving compared to the cost of not forgiving, the choice is easy. We want peace, freedom, healing, and comfort. The path that God created to receive them all is forgiveness. Let’s walk that path together and receive in an abundance the benefits of forgiveness!