DATE: 13th September, 2020
Psalter: Psalm 114:1-8
PREPARED BY: OSOFO YAW DODD
It is impossible to live on this fallen planet without getting HURT, OFFENDED, MISUNDERSTOOD, LIED to, and REJECTED. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of the Christian life.
The word “FORGIVE ” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. It is important to remember that forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. Instead, it is an act of LOVE, MERCY, and GRACE.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is DEVOID OF THE POWER TO LOVE. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. “Forgiveness is God’s command.” ― Martin Luther
It’s helpful to know that in this culture the Jewish rabbis usually recommended that a person should only be forgiven up to three times for the same sin. So when Peter talks about forgiving seven times, he really wants to show Jesus how super spiritual he is. But Jesus wants to show Peter that He has no clue about the depth of REAL GRACE. Jesus tells him, “No, grace is not seven times. God’s grace is seventy times seven.” And Jesus does not mean 490 here. Using all these ‘sevens’, He’s saying that grace is “UNLIMITED ”; He’s saying there can be no limit placed on the amount of forgiveness that we give.
Does Jesus really understand the hurt of repeated sin, or even of just one devastating sin? YES, HE DOES. Does Jesus really understand that such forgiveness could be seen as an invitation for more suffering? YES, HE DOES.
So how can Jesus call His followers to practice this kind of forgiveness? Peter was probably asking some of these same questions, and so Jesus uses a parable to explain this teaching.
As Lewis Donelson puts it: FORGIVENESS must be beyond counting. FORGIVENESS BECOMES AN ABSOLUTE.
A. WHAT THEN IS FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness, on its most basic level, IS LETTING GO. It is both psychological and social; it happens both internally within ourselves and externally as we engage with other people.
Forgiveness is FREEING, for more than just the one who might receive it. It is freeing for the one who does the forgiving. Research shows that: forgiveness is good for the person who offers it, reducing “ANGER, DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, and FEAR ” and affording “cardiovascular and immune system benefits.”
An article from Newsweek magazine a number of years ago had this title: “Forgive and Let Live” Here’s the subtitle, “Revenge is sweet, but letting go of anger at those who wronged you is a smart route to good health.”
B. THE MATHEMATICS OF FORGIVENESS
At the heart of our faith, there are some lumps. The biggest one for me is JESUS’ TEACHING ON FORGIVENESS. In our creed we say, ‘we believe in the forgiveness of sins.” Every Sunday, we ask not only for forgiveness of our debts, but we pray that we will forgive our debtors. Do we really believe that? Or is that a lump we disguise in different ways?
Peter asks a question that is our question, about the limits of forgiveness. He says, “Lord, how many times should I forgive? Seven?” Peter had done his MATHS.
Jesus said to him, “NO! SEVENTY-SEVEN.” Or seven times seventy. It was a way of saying INFINITY. Jesus was using the numbers to say don’t put limits on your forgiveness because God has not put limits on forgiveness and mercy toward you.
The truth is that we punish ourselves; we cut ourselves off from the free flow of God’s grace when we don’t forgive.
C. THE HEART BEHIND OUR PRACTICE
Notice that Jesus is talking about a kind of forgiveness that comes “from the heart” (v.35) So what we’re talking about here is not simply the correct formula for us to follow in terms of our duty, in terms of mere conformity to the correct behavior. Jesus is talking here about understanding the kind of heart that demonstrates this unlimited forgiveness.
If we look at Peter’s heart in verse 21, we see that Peter believed there should a cut off at some point, that forgiveness should be withheld after the seventh pardon. Why did he think this? Well, there are probably several reasons:
▪First, we often want to withhold forgiveness in order to protect ourselves. No one desires to be continually hurt by other people.
▪Second, we can withhold forgiveness because of pride, that is, because we really want to issue a judgment against someone else; we want to show them that we have power over the relationship…the power to condemn.
▪Third, we often withhold forgiveness because we like to be angry. Being hurt leads to anger, and anger is a way for us to justify that we’re OK, because we’re the one that has been wronged.
▪Another (fourth) reason may be that we think if we forgive, we are somehow excusing the other person’s behavior, that we are somehow saying that what they did was OK.
There are probably other reasons, but what I want us to see is that Jesus is confronting this kind of heart, these hearts, with the heart he described through this parable. When it comes to understanding this kind of heart, a heart of true forgiveness, everything rests on this one principle, THE HEART TO FORGIVE OTHERS IS NURTURED BY A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS TO US.
D. WHO MUST YOU FORGIVE?
Who must you forgive this morning? Is there someone, are there people in your life that God is calling you to forgive from your heart? Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s someone here. Maybe it’s someone who is far away. Maybe someone from your past. Maybe someone who has died. It doesn’t matter who or where or when, forgiveness begins right here [in our hearts]. Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone…” [forgive, right there, right then, in your heart]
Remember, when we fail to forgive we are calling into question our understanding of God’s forgiveness to us.
E. RELEASE FORGIVENESS
After the death of Jacob, the brothers of Joseph were worried. They remembered all the terrible things they did to Joseph years ago. They remembered how they hated him. They remembered how they sold him as a slave. They remembered how they covered up his disappearance with the lie that he was dead. They remembered these things and many others and they were afraid. They are sure that now that their father is dead, Joseph will seek revenge against them.
So, they came up with a plan. They sent someone to Joseph with a message. They want him to believe that Jacob left word for him to forgive his brothers before he died. When Joseph hears their words, he weeps. It was never in Joseph’s heart to hold their past over their heads. He had forgiven them for their transgression a long time ago. As Joseph nears the end of his life, he can look back with a CLEARED CONSCIENCE.
As we pass through life, there will be times when we are hurt by the words and actions of others. It is inevitable, Luke 17:1. We will be hurt and sometimes, we will be hurt deeply. We cannot help what others do to us, but we can help what we do with the hurts of others.
When the hurtful words and harsh deeds of others break our hearts, we really only have two courses of action. We can be angry, hold a grudge and seek revenge. Or, we can forgive them and leave the matter in the hands of God. One day, we will all leave this world. Are you prepared to leave it with a clean conscience toward others? Here is what you need to do:
▪If you are the offending party you need to go to them and ask for forgiveness.
▪If you are the offended party, you need to take the matter before the Lord and strive to reach a place of forgiveness.
Precious One! Joseph was able to leave this world with a clean conscience toward others. Will you? Forgiveness is the KEY. Enjoy the service. Stay BLESSED.
VERY REV DR. SAMUEL DUA DODD
CALVARY METHODIST CHURCH