The Gospel According To Jesus - Week Seven: "Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven"

Today, we are continuing a sermon series that will take us through September as we explore the Gospel lectionary texts from Matthew.  

This sermon series will take us through some of the key teachings and lessons from the life of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel—to hear the Good News directly from Jesus himself. 

Many people in our current culture claim to speak for Jesus, yet when you hold up what they are saying next to the actual words of Jesus, it doesn't add up.  

This is why it's important to go directly to the source and read Jesus's stories and teachings.  If we are going to call ourselves Jesus-followers, it makes sense to know what he wanted us to do to follow him more fully.  

Today, we will explore a story that Jesus told about forgiveness and the nearly impossible standard he set. 

What are some things that you find hard to forgive?  

Here's a short list of things I have a hard time forgiving...  
1. People who call a store to ask questions as I am standing in the store asking questions. 
2. People who drive the speed limit in the fast lane. 
3. People who take up two parking spaces. 
4. People who bring $500 worth of clothing to the register and only buy $30 worth
5. People who talk on their phone at the airport gate as loudly as they can as if no one is sitting next to them. 
6. People who lean their airplane seat back on a less than three-hour flight. 

Have you ever felt like someone you know is unforgivable?  
Maybe they did something to you or someone you love that you cannot forgive.  

While it seems to go without saying that forgiveness should be a huge part of what it means to be a Christian, most of us struggle to forgive those who have wounded us. 

And sometimes, even when we forgive, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of offering forgiveness to the same person or persons more than once.  

When it comes to forgiveness, it's hard to know exactly how many times you should offer it to someone--especially when they keep hurting you.  

There's a moment in the Gospel of Matthew when the Apostle Peter finally decides to ask Jesus how many times he should forgive someone.  The answer shocked everyone.  

We'll dig into that in a moment, but first, let me share with you what I want to hold on to today: 


And folks, we have been forgiven... a lot.  

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.

Some ancient rabbis in the first century taught that forgiving someone more than three times was useless.  In other words, if someone is so untrustworthy that they break faith with you more than three times, it's not worth your time or energy to keep forgiving them.

Peter thought he was being a big shot by upping the ante to seven times, but then Jesus blows his mind by saying, "Seven?  Not even close.  Try four hundred and ninety times."  Does this mean that Jesus was putting limits on forgiveness, too?  Not at all.  He was simply using an exaggeration to demonstrate the lengths we should go to forgiven one another. 

“Lamech said to his wives: 'Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold'” (Gen. 4:23–24).

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[b] 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.

The servant owed millions---one estimate is $226,291,702 it's impossible to pay.  

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.

The man is granted amnesty, which is shocking. 

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

Then he immediately goes out and finds a guy who owes him 100 denarii, which is like $5,800 

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.”

Ouch. That last line seems pretty rough, right?  But when you read this closely you see that what Jesus is saying is that the kind offered the servant a new economy of grace that was radical and shocking.  When he refused it, he simply allowed him to live in the old one. 

The people who heard this story would have thought, "That's what he should have gotten in the first place."  

The question that is posed here is an important one: 

Which kind of world do you want to live in?  One marked by retribution or one marked by extravagant grace and shalom? 

Let’s Get Practical About This 

Forgiveness is Not Forgetting 

Forgiveness Isn’t Fair 

Forgiveness is About Giving What You’ve Been Given

The question shouldn’t be “How much should I forgive?” It should be “How much do I want to be free?”

In his excellent book Rumors of Another World, Philip Yancey tells the story of a hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa that sought to bring unity to a country torn apart by racism, bigotry and oppression.  A South African policeman had to recount how he and other officers murdered an eighteen year-old boy and then burned his father alive in front of the boy's mother.   

The woman was asked what she wanted from the policeman.  She said she wanted the policeman to go to the place where her husband's body was burned and to gather up the dust to give him a decent burial.  Then she added, "Twice a month, I would like for [the policeman] to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him."  

She went on to say that she wanted the policeman to know that he was forgiven by God and that she had forgiven him, too.  The man fainted in the witness stand, overwhelmed by the grace he received at the hands of a woman who could have demanded his imprisonment.  

Pastor and author Rob Bell once wrote: “Maybe forgiveness is ultimately about me and about you – it’s about us. Because when I forgive somebody and I set them free, it’s like I’m really setting myself free.”  

May you find new strength and courage today and every day to forgive those who have wounded you.  May you realize that by forgiving them, you are releasing yourself from the burden of those wounds, setting yourself free to be the person God dreams for you to be. 



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