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Worship Message - Forgive

Forgive

The theme of our messages during this time leading up to the season of Lent is to do

whatever Jesus tells you.

That of course includes a lot of things, and it can be that some things He tells you may

be different than what He tells me, that happening concerning ways He wants us to

serve Him individually. But some of the things Jesus tells us applies to each of us. To

all of us. Those things include to repent and believe in and follow Him, to follow Him on

good days and difficult days alike, to follow Him even when what He wants us to do

makes no sense to us, to show love and compassion to others, and what we will talk

about today, which is to forgive others.

For the topic of forgiving, I have two Bible passages to share. I also have some examples

of forgiveness to share. Examples I hope will encourage each of us to obey today’s

Biblical teaching.

For the benediction, I have a thought to share that is an alternative way of

communicating the teaching to forgive. What I think is a cool explanation. But the first

Bible passage for today is in Luke 6, beginning with verse 17, which has Jesus, according

to the wording, coming down. He came down.

Right before this, Jesus had been up on a mountain, praying. After His prayers, He

officially chose - I think it can be worded He commissioned - His 12 disciples. Now in

verse 17, He came down. He left the mountain, returning to the level place at the foot of

it.

On the mountain, only His disciples had been with Jesus, but on the level place, there

was a great crowd of people with Him. His disciples were in the crowd, too. So, also,

were many, many other people from many, many areas in and around the Jewish

homeland. The others had gathered to hear Jesus teach, to be healed of whatever

diseases some of them had, and for any with unclean spirits, to be cured of that problem.

According to verse 19, the crowd was great, not only in number, but in fervor as well.

So much so they pushed to get to Jesus, trying to touch Him. That is because He had so

much power, it came forth from Him. All who even touched Him were healed.

It was that spiritual intensity Jesus wanted to take advantage of. So He lifted up His

eyes and said... It is recorded He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, but since others

were around as well, I assume they, too, heard.

Jesus said... Here is a bit of a summary of what He said - what He taught - leading up to

the key verse for this message in Luke 6. I am going to share some of the other verses

because the key verse is not the only one telling us what Jesus taught.

Jesus said... and by the way, what He said in this chapter is similar to what is recorded

in the Gospel of Matthew. In the chapters of that book that record what is called the

Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus taught, “Blessed are you who are poor, who hunger, who weep, who are hated

because of your faith.”

It is interesting that in those words, those who suffer are blessed. It is interesting Jesus

taught that those who suffer here on earth - including suffering because of their faith -

will be rewarded in Heaven with a place there and with satisfaction and laughter.

Jesus also had a warning for those who are rich and full and those who laugh and have

others speak well of them, His point not being that wealth and adequate food and

laughter and having a good reputation are necessarily bad things, but that they are not

to be the main things of life. Those things are not to become more important than

worshiping and serving the Lord.

Jesus then taught, among other things, to “love your enemies and do good to those who

hate you, to bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you.”

Those teachings can be very difficult to obey, but they are important because they help

lead us to obeying the key verse that is coming.

Jesus also spoke what is known as the Golden Rule. “As you wish that men would do to

you, do so to them.”

Then, right after Jesus also taught to judge not and condemn not - right after He taught

that the benefit of obeying those two teachings is that we can avoid being judged and

condemned - we come to the main verse from this chapter for today.

And again, we have considered some of the other verses in Luke 6 because the key one is

not the only one Jesus taught. There are a whole lot of ways Jesus wants people to live.

We need to know them all, which is why many of the other verses have been mentioned.

But here is the key verse from Luke 6 for today. Actually, it is part of a verse. The last

part of verse 37. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Forgive. What does that mean? Here are some of the definitions I found, none of them

having much to do with forgetting something wrong, but rather not letting something

wrong interfere with your spiritual condition.

Forgive. Feel no resentment toward, feel no malice for, harbor no grudge against, bury

the hatchet with whoever has done you wrong. Give up any claim for revenge. Ignore or

pass over something that has been wrong or offensive.

Let me say this. I do not believe that anywhere in the Bible does Jesus teach that we

should allow ourselves to be hurt over and over again. I do not think Jesus expects us to

remain in hurtful or dangerous relationships.

But He does teach us to not allow situations - even hurtful, offensive situations - to ruin

us spiritually.

Following the definitions of forgive. Is that easy? Not at all. However, forgiving others

is possible. It is something we are taught to do.

In a bit, some examples of forgiving. But did you catch the last part of the key verse?

One of the reasons we should be willing to forgive? “Forgive, and you will be forgiven,”

which speaks not necessarily of human forgiveness, but spiritual forgiveness, as in Jesus

forgiving us.

And yes, we have all done at least some things that have needed forgiveness. That has

probably happened in various personal relationships any of us have had. It has certainly

happened with any sins we have committed.

Speaking of that, if Jesus can forgive us, which He has when we have repented, should

we not be able to forgive others?

In fact, let’s move on to today’s second passage, in which Jesus adds the teaching of how

often we should forgive others.

The second teaching is in Matthew 18. It came as the result of a question from the

disciple Peter. Verse 21. One day, Peter went to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often shall

my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

I don’t know that anyone had just recently sinned against Peter. This seems to be more

a philosophical question.

But the number “seven” is significant. You see, the Jewish teaching was that forgiveness

is to be given three times. In fact, I have read that the full Jewish teaching is that

forgiveness was limited to three times. That upon a fourth offense, forgiveness was

forbidden.

Peter, however, expressed a willingness to go way beyond what was expected - more

than twice what was taught. Peter hinted he was willing to forgive people seven times.

“Is that OK, Lord?” Peter asked. I suspect Peter expected to be praised for such

generosity.

However, praise was not Jesus’ answer. Instead, He responded, “I do not say to you

seven times, but seventy times seven times.”

As often as I read that response or mention it in messages - this is also a frequent

passage referred to in weddings - I remind myself that math was not Jesus’ intent.

The math figures out to 490 times of forgiveness.

But for Jesus, it was not a math lesson. Instead, His teaching is that forgiveness is to

become a habit. The point being, using myself as an example, that if I forgive someone

one time and then twice and then a third time and then seven times and a hundred

times and 275 times and 369 times and continue on and on, by the time I will have

reached the 490th time of forgiveness, it will have become such a habit it will go on

beyond that.

Again, I am not called to stay with that someone and intentionally allow myself to be

hurt over and over again. But if a relationship does include things that need forgiveness,

I am supposed to keep doing that, at least to the extent of not allowing a hurt to ruin my

spiritual condition. Which resentment, malice, holding a grudge, seeking revenge will

do.

Jesus followed His teaching on forgiveness with a parable that centered on a king

settling accounts with his servants.

As the king did that, one servant was brought to him who owed him a huge amount. So

huge, the servant could not pay it.

Because he could not pay, the king ordered the servant to be sold, along with his wife

and his children and all he had. The money raised through that was to satisfy the debt.

But the servant fell on his knees and started begging. He cried, “Have patience with me

and I will pay you everything.”

Out of pity, the king released the servant and forgave him the debt. But right after that,

that same servant came upon a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount.

The forgiven servant seized the other by the throat and demanded, “Pay what you owe!”

When the second servant fell down and begged the first servant for patience, the first

servant refused, putting his fellow servant in prison.

When news of that reached the ears of the king, he summoned the forgiven servant and

said to him, “You wicked servant. I forgave you all your debt because you begged me.

Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

That was actually a rhetorical question. The king did not expect, nor did he want, an

answer. Instead, the forgiveness that had been granted was revoked. The servant was

delivered to the jailers. In the parable, the servant stayed in the jail until he could pay

all his debt. Which I guess means he was in jail forever since, in jail, he had no way of

making any money. And besides, his debt, according to the parable, was more than he

could ever have made even out of jail.

But listen to Jesus. He said, “So also My Heavenly Father [who, in the parable, is

represented by the king] will do to everyone of you if you do not forgive your brother

from your heart.”

Forgive others. As mentioned earlier, that is very often not easy to do. But it is possible.

In fact, we have examples of it happening, both Biblically and in our current age. I have

one from the Bible and two to share from our current age.

The one from the Bible is found early in the Old Testament. It has to do with a young

man named Joseph, who was the 11th of 12 sons, Jacob the father of them all.

Joseph, as he grew up, had the favor of his father. Jacob at least seemed to love Joseph

more than he loved his other sons. Because of that, Joseph developed a bit of arrogance,

which his brothers grew weary of.

One day, when Joseph was perhaps in his mid-teens, his brothers had had enough of

him. They sold him to some traders, who took him from the Jewish homeland where he

had lived to Egypt, where the traders sold him to the captain of Egypt’s ruler.

Interestingly, Joseph started out quite well. He soon rose to a position of authority in

the captain’s house. But then he ran into a problem. He was falsely accused of a crime,

which landed him in jail, where he stayed for quite some time before being released.

Whereupon he again rose to a position of authority, this time with the ruler - with

Pharaoh - himself.

With that authority, Joseph developed a plan to store food in Egypt. A plan that was

used for seven years. A plan that was very important because at the end of those seven

years, which featured huge harvests, a severe famine began. A seven-year famine that

affected not only Egypt, but that entire region of the world. Including the part of the

region where Joseph’s brothers still lived.

When the famine started, after a time of suffering, those brothers heard there was food

in Egypt. They did not know Joseph was the one who was responsible for that. In fact,

they did not know if Joseph was still alive. But to Egypt they went. All but the youngest

brother. To Egypt they went in search of food.

So it was that one day they arrived at the capital, where Joseph was. They arrived to ask

for food.

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And as the report

continues, Joseph did tease them a bit. But he could have done a lot more than tease

them. He could have had them killed. They were, after all, foreigners trying to get

Egypt’s food. And they had mistreated Joseph.

Short of having them killed, Joseph could have had his brothers imprisoned. They had

taken his freedom away. Joseph might have wondered how they would like it to have

their freedom taken away.

Joseph could have done any of a number of bad things to his brothers. And you know,

we might even be apt to say his brothers deserved to be mistreated.

But Joseph did not act badly. In fact, remember the definitions of forgiveness? He felt

no resentment toward, no malice for, no grudge against them. He had no desire to take

revenge upon them.

Joseph forgave his brothers. He did that to the point of not only giving them food, but

also inviting them to go back home and then return to Egypt with their father and the

youngest brother. To return and live where conditions were good. All of that wrapped

up with the words, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

Which is true. Without Joseph’s help, which would not have been available to Pharaoh

if Joseph’s brothers had not sold him, Egypt would have been as bad off as every other

place during the famine, which means Joseph’s family and eventually the rest of God’s

people would have all starved.

But wow. After having been hurt so badly, forgiveness must have been difficult. But

Joseph did forgive. Which is what Jesus tells us to do. Which did happen in the modern

day case of a woman named Renee, the mother of a son and three daughters, two of the

daughters being twins.

On May 11, 2002, a 24-year-old drunk driver named Eric killed one of the twins,

Meagan, along with Lisa, one of her friends. Both were 20 years old.

The accident - the deaths - were devastating for the families of Meagan and Lisa.

Countless friends mourned the loss of the young women. But you know what? Eric and

his family were mourning as well. Not just for the two killed, but also for Eric.

I think it helped that Eric was apparently distraught - that he showed remorse - but

when the families of the young women noticed Eric’s suffering, they forgave him. To the

extent of eventually appealing to have his 22-year prison sentence reduced to 11 years.

Few people would have blamed Renee and the other mother and the rest of the families

if they had resented Eric or had malice toward him or had campaigned for revenge

through more time in prison. A grudge against Eric would even seem natural. After all,

he hurt a lot of people very seriously.

But somehow, they did and they continue to find it in their hearts to extend forgiveness

to the man who took the lives of the young women.

The results of the forgiveness have been wonderful. The family members are not eaten

up with anger. And Eric, having seen forgiveness in action, has become a Christian.

But you know something else? It is not just big, major things like being sold into slavery

or losing a loved one to a drunk driver that need to be forgiven. So, too, are we called to

forgive what might be called everyday-type things, including things that are said that are

hurtful.

For that, one more story, which comes David, from a fellow pastor in Omaha. At lunch a

few days ago, David shared that before his current ministry, he was a worship leader at

another church. It was part of a different Christian group, which means there were a

few things with which David did not agree.

That was fine with him, but it became an issue for some others, to the point David

decided it would be best for him to step down from leadership and seek another church.

David did that, which seems to make sense. He chose to leave rather than create

problems. But when he left, many people of the church began writing and speaking

horrible things about him and his wife. As David shared, the response to his leaving was

very hurtful.

Well, David is good at repair work, including fixing furnaces. A while back, the church

he left had furnace trouble. David heard about it from a friend. David asked if he could

fix the furnace.

The answer was “yes,” and David did fix it. But the friend wanted to know why David

did that. Why did he even want to help the church?

David’s answer? That is how he was able to forgive the people who had hurt him. It was

by serving them he was able to overcome what they had done.

Big things, little things, lots of things can happen to us that are hurtful. Some of them fit

into how the apostle Peter put it - into the category of sins against us.

But with all things that are bad that happen to us, Jesus tells us to forgive. To forgive

even to seventy times seven times if necessary.

Again, that is not easy. But it is possible. And one more time, we are not called to keep

putting ourselves into dangerous, hurtful situations. But as the Old Testament Joseph

forgave, as mother Renee forgave, as pastor David forgave, so we are to forgive, choosing

that over resentment, malice, grudges, revenge. The reward being forgiveness for

ourselves when it is needed.

Today’s closing song is verses 1 and 3 of the hymn I Then Shall Live.

I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven.

I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.

I know my name is clear before my Father.

I am His child, and I am not afraid.

So greatly pardoned I’ll forgive my brother.

The law of love I gladly will obey.

Your kingdom come around and through and in me.

Your power and glory, let them shine through me.

Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,

And may Your living Kingdom come in me.

The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,

And may You feed a hungry world through me.

There is a story about two friends who were walking through a desert.

During some point of their journey, they had an argument. One friend slapped the other

in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand,

“Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

The two kept walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The

one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning. His friend saved

him, after which the rescued one carved on a stone, “Today my best friend saved my

life.”

The one who had done the slapping and the saving asked his friend, “After I hurt you,

you wrote in the sand, and now, you write on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where

winds of forgiveness can erase it away. When someone does something good for us, we

must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”

May we learn to write our hurts in the sand and carve our blessings in stone. In other

words, may we learn to forgive. That is what Jesus tells us. Amen.

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