You don't need to forgive them
Sermon Series: Things Jesus Never Said Preacher: Rix Banga
Date: 17/11/2019 (6pm Service)
Hello church! How we all doing? Ready for a heavy, hard hitting message about forgiveness? No, I suppose we never really are. But here we go... So my name is Rix and we’re in the middle of our sermon series called: “Things Jesus Never Said”, last time Ian Minton tackled something Jesus never said which was "you get what you deserve" and he concluded with this image:
Powerful. A strong reminder that actually HE got what WE deserve. Following on from that, this week, the scripture I have been given is from Matthew 18 – from the parable of the Unmerciful (or unforgiving) Servant. And tonight’s fake Jesus quote or in other words Things Jesus Never Said “You don’t need to forgive them”. Last week, Ian reminded us about what Jesus did for us through grace, and this week we’ll look at how we extend that grace to others through forgiveness. So let’s get into it… Now, I was contemplating how to present this in a way that is clever & witty but God has really hit me hard with this particular topic and I’ve been feeling a real sense of responsibility. God had to remind me that it’s not my message, but His message and that there are people in this room here tonight He has been reaching out to about forgiveness. For those of you who know me well, you’ll know I’m pretty open about things and don’t shy away from saying what needs to be said. From conversations with people in this church, I have seen much pain, much hurt and much brokenness. To glaze over it would be a disservice not only to you but more importantly to God.
If I’m being honest, I see a wounded body of Christ. No everyone, but enough of us. And that’s not a judgement, that’s reflecting God’s compassion - He feels your pain. Some of you need to hear that. He feels your pain. Now we can sit here and dwell on the pain and the hurt or we can digest God’s scriptures and take a step forward. So let us as brothers and sisters unpack God’s holy scripture and try to wrestle with what He is teaching us on this day, at this time, in this service and on this journey together. Are you with me church? Are you ready? Nor am I. Let us pray, together, please repeat after me: Dear Jesus, Help me tonight Lord, as I reach out to You. Guide me from a place of confusion, to a place of clarity. Take me from a place of heaviness, to a place of freedom. Please carry me from a place of unforgiveness, to forgiveness. Let me be transformed, by the renewing of my mind. God help me, to put aside my smallness, and focus on Your greatness. You are bigger than my pain, bigger than my hurt, bigger than my burdens. Tonight, I want to release my pain, to you my merciful and gracious God. Amen. What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person/people. Notice it doesn’t say it’s a feeling, it's a decision - but we’ll get back to that later. Lets look at what the Bible says - Matthew 18:21-35 The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant 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?” So a bit of background here – you see by Jewish culture, 3 times was sufficient to show a forgiving spirit and Peter here believes he is being generous by suggesting 7 times (which is more than double the expectation and the Jewish number representing completion). 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Sometimes the Bible is literal and sometime it is figurative, and I believe that this was a figurative expression. Jesus wasn’t saying - "if your spouse, your colleague, your friend has sinned against you, get yourself down to WH Smith and pick up a notebook, sharpen up your pencil and start keeping a tally of how many times that person has sinned you. And when you get to 77 (or 490 for you mathematicians out there) then it’s time for vengeance!!!" No, I believe Jesus was saying; listen Peter, I know you are trying to impress me here and trying to go over and above the designated three which has been taught to you, and I know you think you are being super generous suggesting seven - but I’m saying seven times seventy-seven! In other words, more than you can count, a number so vast that by the time you get there, forgiving them will become part of your nature. Let’s get real… How many of us sitting here have been hurt by someone, totally their fault and you’re thinking – yeah but they deserve to pay me back. I’m a good person! It’s not fair. I was mistreated. The injustice! Maybe you've been wrongfully mistreated by someone in your family? Or a friend? Maybe someone you work with? Your boss? Your employee? Your ministry leader? Your church leader? Your spouse? The people you least expect it from? Someone mistreats you and hurts you, and you want to either throw in the towel or you want to enact justice, revenge or seek some kind of retribution. How does God respond to these feelings we carry - Jesus explains… 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. Imagine that, imagine owing someone that much money – 10,000 bags of gold, other translations say 20 years wages, but the focus here is that was a lot of money. And the point is this; we have ALL sinned against God, ALL OF US - so immeasurably that there is NO WAY we can repay God for our sins. NO WAY. Jesus continues... 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, cancelled the debt and let him go. So you see, the heart of the servant that Jesus is presenting here – he’s begging, pleading and saying he will pay it all back. He is willing to make it up to him and asking for mercy. And the master gives it to him, he takes pity on him, he doesn’t reduce the debt, he cancels the debt and let him go. Remember, when Jesus was telling this parable – he hadn’t died yet, we can read all this in hindsight but Jesus was setting the disciples up for what was to come. God was going to cancel our debts. Present day: how many of you know that God took pity on us after the fall of Adam & Eve? That God in His infinite mercy, devised a plan and sent Jesus not JUST to reduce our debt but to CANCEL the entire debt through the cross? He cancelled our debts, and because of His grace, we are set free from the burden. It is finished. The parable continues but now the focus is on the one who was forgiven, if the master in the story represents God, then clearly we are represented by the servant…this is what Jesus says… 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. One of his colleagues owed him the equivalent of 20 weeks of wages. And see what he did? He grabbed him and choked him. Now before we start hating on this guy for doing that, let’s have a look at our own hearts. Who can relate to that? We were not saved for our own sake. We were saved to be His. To do His work, He is the master. What we see the Father do, we do. And we need to check our heart to the way we respond to those around us. In this case, instead of releasing it, he thought he was rightfully owed it. But notice, he didn’t take it to the master (i.e God) and ask for justice, he took on justice himself and demanded payment. How many of us do the same thing? We ask God for forgiveness and rely on His grace for us, but then we turn around and demand recompense from the ones who sin against us. 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. The fellow servant also begged but did not receive mercy. I wonder. Who in your life right now has hurt you badly, and is knocking at your door asking to be forgiven?
How did YOU respond? Did you metaphorically grab and choke? Or did you forgive them? Tough question right? Do you accept they played their part in repentance? If so, are going to play your part in forgiveness? Luke 17:4 says: Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” - if someone repents, you must forgive. You see forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. Honestly, personally speaking, I often have to wait until my emotions have simmered down, I've stopped sulking and feel better before I forgive, and even then sometimes I don’t even let it go fully (something my wife is getting me to work on!). But in the book of Luke, it’s an instruction to be actioned, which means forgiveness is not a feeling (God doesn’t command our emotions) - it’s a choice. A decision. Forgiveness is a choice. Take a moment to let that sink in. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled 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.” The master is angry, Jesus makes this clear. He also says that the master in the parable reverses his position of forgiveness and wants full payment back again. And then he ends it with a very scary thought; this is how God will treat us, if we do not forgive our brother and sister from the heart. Wow. Does that put the fear of God into anyone else or is it just me? Ouch. Let’s just sit with that for a few moments. What is God saying to you? Right now. [Pause for reflection] This is backed up further in Matthew 6:14-15 which says: 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. And again in the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who lives in Heaven, ….. forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. As we forgive those who sin against us. Now, at this point I want to make it really clear that forgiving someone of sin IS NOT about condoning their behaviour. It IS NOT about accepting bad behaviour. It’s IS NOT about letting people walk all over you. It IS NOT about becoming best friends with the person who sinned against you. It IS NOT about ignoring consequences of their actions.
Choosing forgiveness when you don’t feel like it, will mean that you have to go to God, on your knees and allow His power to work through you. Because most of the time we can't do it on our own. So, forgiveness is choosing to let go and not to let thoughts of hatred rule in your heart. The person who sinned against you has God’s judgement on them, just as you have until you have repented of your sin. To forgive your brother or sister is not dependant on you both being on the same page, it’s about you doing YOUR part, sadly even if they don’t do theirs. It’s choosing to go to God to find help and comfort instead of dwelling on the past, even when our feelings want us to enjoy the pain. We have sickness in us that wants to live and indulge in the pain. We start to get twisted in our hearts and ultimately our pain spills over to our loved ones and our relationship with God. And before you know it, we are the ones committing horrible sins against people in our lives. Hurt people, hurt people. Forgiveness deals with our hurt. You've probably heard he term 'forgive and forget'; NO, pile of rubbish. Christians look at Hebrews 8:12: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” and come to the conclusion that we should 'forgive and forget'. But remembering no more is different to forgetting. 'Remembering no more' means choosing NOT TO DWELL on what has happened. Yes it happened, yes it was painful, but not dwelling on it enables it to change from an active wound to an inactive scar. Are you tired? Are you weary? Are you wounded? If you are, maybe it's because you are fighting battles that are not yours to fight. 2 Chronicles 20:15 “…Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.” Or maybe you are tired and wounded because you are trying to get vengeance: Hebrews 10:30 - "For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” We are instructed to forgive, again, and again, and again. It ain’t easy, I don’t know your story, I don’t know your pain. I don’t know about the bullying, the sexual sin, the aggression, the neglect, the abuse that has come your way. All I know, is I carry enough of my own and it is hard. So as I wrap up, tonight, let us doing something symbolic and move forward, let us tonight make decision to take one of our wounds, stop dwelling on the pain, stop dwelling on the hurt and give that wound to Jesus. Right here. Right now. I want to give you space to be able to let go, and to let God help you. Have a look at this image.
It’s a photo of the church window on your right. It's an image God gave to me in January and I didn’t understand what He was saying until now. Take your time – and when you’re ready come look at the chains of unforgiveness on one side and then look at the sword of the spirit on the other side.
You’ll notice tonight that there is a line in the ground I've prepared that leads from where you are sitting now right back to that image – to that window. And when you are ready, listen, when YOU are ready (take your time), come over to the chains side of the line, look up at that window and cross that line from chains into freedom of the spirit. I can't do that for you. Make it YOUR moment. And take your time. There is no pressure. Just compassion and a desire for you to be free from bondage.
Let us pray: Lord, thank you for speaking to us today. Help us to move from chains to freedom. Help us to break free from the weight of our unforgiveness. Guide us into a place in our spirit where our wounds can heal. Where our scars remind us to be mindful of our salvation. Holy spirit, help us to be a church that preaches forgiveness. That promotes forgiveness. That lives out forgiveness. A place where when people walk in they are not walking into judgement, politics, bickering, exclusivity, but into a place that oozes love, acceptance, encouragement, problem solving and forgiveness. Lord turn a few moments of masking tape on a floor into a moments of eternal significance in our personal life and in our life as a church body. Have YOUR WAY, in Jesus name. Amen.
Now I encourage you to go, take action and move forward. In His strength.