Have you ever wondered why it’s so important to forgive? And why Jesus stressed forgiving others so much?
Jesus had been teaching his disciples about life in the Kingdom of God and how their relationships were critically important... both their relationship with God, and their relationships with one another.
When Peter “chimed-in” with a great question: “Lord, if another member of the church sins again against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Of course, Jesus answered with what has become one of the most quickly recognizable answers in the Bible: “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Or even more famously, the KJV reads, “seventy times seven.”
I don’t know about you, but if I see a fly, or a moth in the house... or an ant walking along the kitchen counter top, I don’t think twice about killing it! I’ve done that my whole life, I suppose. And think nothing of it!
Just last week, in Davis Hall, I was doing something at the kitchen sink and noticed a couple of those pesky little boogers marching around like they owned the place. And almost as fast as I noticed the ants, I started squishing them with my finger! Almost instinctively! That's until I realized it wasn’t just a couple... There was a line of ants that would require more than a few finger squishes to get rid of!
Of course, kinda jokingly, half-heartedly, I wondered, “Why don’t I feel bad when I kill an ant?”
The answer’s fairly obvious... I am this big (move hand to my height) and an ant is this big (put fingers together to show the size of the ant). And besides that those little boogers bite! But there’s such a great difference in size... and assumed value... that my conscious allows me the freedom to feel nothing when killing the ant.
But, then, I’m kinda forced to admit... that as great and dramatic the difference between an ant and a person... such a difference is nothing compared to the difference between me and God! Yet, God does not go around squashing us (hand gesture) like annoying ants!
In fact, God does something very different, to tell you the truth. God welcomes us into his presence... He calls us to live in his love and provision. And in spite of the difference between us and God, God cares for each of us. So much so that Jesus died in our place... for our sins. He loves us enough to forgive us for being pesky little boogers!
We forgive because God has first forgiven us.
Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if a brother/sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
To refuse to forgive is to be held in judgement. Ultimately God’s judgement, no doubt! But a self imposed judgement, in the here and now, too.
So many of us hang on to un-forgiveness because of hatred, fear and anger. We refuse to see God (or how Christ can work) when someone has wronged us, hurt us, offended us. We allow the darkness to creep into our hearts and souls.
And in doing so... we find ourselves caught in a prison of our own creation... because of our unwillingness to let go of the pain and hurt. When we fail to forgive... we (for all intents and purposes) are failing to remember that we’re not perfect! We fall short... you have hurt somone... I have sinned against my brother...
That’s why forgiveness is so important... Forgiveness is a willingness to acknowledge our own shortcomings, as we intentionally “cut some slack” to those who struggle with the same imperfections!
Don’t misunderstand: forgiveness doesn’t deny the offense! It doesn’t necessarily remove the consequences of the offense, either! But forgiveness does free me/you of the tremendous weight (and the undue burden) that comes along with being too proud, too angry, too selfish... to see beyond our own hurt.
Imagine the freedom... if for a moment... you & I could forgive all wrong done to us. And imagine the freedom if all you’ve ever done wrong to another was forgiven by the person wronged.
Imagine the peace. Imagine a life, not caught up in all the drama & despair... the conflict & turmoil...
Imagine this world... our world... with each person treating one another, responding to one another, as we would like to be treated, ourselves. Crazy thought, isn’t it?
Imagine, forgiveness... beginning with us, God’s People... followers of Jesus Christ... brothers and sisters seeing each other as valuable and worthy of grace and compassion... and a second chance.
To refuse to forgive is a prison of our own making.
But thanks be to God: Forgiveness is the key to our freedom.
Peter came and said to Jesus, Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy- seven times."
We forgive because God has first forgiven us.
So, with all that said... how? How do we practically, and realistically begin?
One word... Prayer!
Imagine the person who’s hurt you most in this life... and stop... and pray for that person. Try it every day for a couple of weeks!
Gracious God, I lift up to you (insert the name of your "favorite" enemy), that they may know the love you have for them. Amen.
Do it! I dare you! See what might happen. Let God in. Let God work. Let Christ offer you freedom in forgiving. Imagine what will happen. Imagine what God will do. God will move us from pain... to the joy of abundant life in Christ. If we allow Christ into the process and allow for transformation, new life will occur.
This is the promise given to us.
Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if a brother sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times."
We forgive because God has first forgiven us. Amen.