In the last post we began looking at some of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness. We will continue looking at Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, as He continues to “raise the bar”.
Matthew 6:12 [Jesus] and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
This is in what most people refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. I grew up in a church that recited the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. Sadly, I prayed those words hundreds of times without ever really taking in the true meaning of what I was praying for.
FORGIVENESS IS NECESSARY AND ONGOING
Jesus tied OUR forgiveness directly to our willingness to forgive other people. People who have sinned against us. People who have hurt us. Even our enemies. When I pray those words in Matthew 6:12, I am asking God to forgive me based on my forgiveness of others. I am asking Him to look at my life, and how I forgive the people in my life… and I am asking Him to forgive me in the same way I have forgiven others. Really understanding that is a game-changer, to put it mildly.
And just in case we missed His point, He restated it again just a couple verses later.
Matthew 6:14-15 [Jesus] If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
This is hard to take in.
The Jewish rabbis of Jesus’ day taught that you had to forgive someone up to three times. Frankly, even that standard wouldn’t be easy in some cases! But according to their teaching, after three times of forgiving, you were off the hook. Jesus was clearly taking forgiveness to a much higher standard.
He is not teaching that we earn our forgiveness by forgiving others. That would mean our forgiveness was not a gift from God, and Scripture is clear that it is an unearned gift, available only through God’s precious grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Jesus also taught obedience to His commands are the primary measure of our love for Him.
John 14:15 [Jesus] If you love Me, keep my commandments.
I imagine the disciples were all really struggling with these teachings from Jesus. I can picture them whispering “Surely He can’t really mean that…”. Is forgiveness really that important?
I love Peter! Peter apparently had to think on this whole forgiveness thing all the way from chapter 6 to chapter 18 of Matthew! You can always count on Peter… he finally got the courage to ask Jesus for some clarification on these hard teachings about forgiveness. Peter wanted to be sure he understood exactly how far Jesus was expecting this forgiveness thing to go, so he finally asked Him.
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
Peter wanted to be obedient. He was going WAY past what the rabbis taught… double it, and add one for good measure! Peter probably expected a big pat on the back from Jesus for setting such a high standard. Maybe Peter expected Jesus to tell the other disciples they should take a spiritual lesson from him. But Peter was in for a big surprise.
Matthew 18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
I can just imagine the look on Peter’s face! Now Jesus wasn’t literally saying 490 times, and then you’re done. He was using a Hebrew figure of speech. He was saying to keep on forgiving. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t let bitterness grow in your heart. Don’t keep count. Forgive.
UNFORGIVENESS AFFECTS HOW GOD DISCIPLINES US
Jesus knew the disciples were having a hard time getting this, so He told a parable to illustrate His point.
Matthew 18:23-35 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents [an unpayable debt]. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [a small sum]; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
In the parable, the evil servant received incredible, undeserved forgiveness of his debt from the King. He should have learned a lesson from the King’s generosity and mercy, and been filled with gratitude and thankfulness. He should have been more willing to forgive others. His actions showed that his heart had not changed. He was still completely unforgiving, and he didn’t appreciate the forgiveness that the King had given him. His lack of forgiveness was very offensive to the King, and in the same way, our lack of forgiveness of others is very offensive to God. The King chose to punish the evil servant because of his unforgiveness.
If we really understand the forgiveness God has given us, we will naturally be forgiving to others. We should never lose sight of how much God has forgiven us.
Colossians 3:13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you MUST forgive others.