Quest for Truth 136 Merciful Forgiveness

In a shorter, solo episode, we Keith falls back on a topic gleaned from a recent Sunday school quarterly. If you get material from the Gospel Project, it may seem familiar. All we do is take the bible passage, outline, and read a couple opening statements, and talking points. Basically a derivative work to present a basic theme of forgiveness, and how it works in the context it was intended.

To help with the scripture reading, a guest Retrobot is on hand. Be sure to drop us a line to let us know how he did.

Let’s get right to the main topic, and a parable about…

The Unmerciful Servant

Theme: Those who receive forgiveness must, in turn, extend forgiveness.

  • Our debt before God was too great to be paid through our good works or effort,
  • We have received forgiveness through the grace of Jesus Christ, who paid our debt through His death on the cross.
  • God has wiped the slate clean with the blood of His Son.

Introduction

Revenge in our culture shows up in books, movies, and in a fictional world seems to bring a satisfying sense of justice. The good guy wins, and the evil deeds of the bad guy catch up to him. A reason to celebrate… right?

Revenge in the real world, as testified to by a search through news headlines reveal it’s emptiness. For example, a father who got revenge for the death of his son only led to another death, and such grief the father hung himself because he couldn’t cope with his loss.

Another tragic tale of revenge found a doctor, stripped of his title and profession after 4 counts of revenge. Now he’s facing a possible death penalty by the justice system . Revenge has never been intended to fall to the hands of men. Even just retribution is designed to come at the hand of civic authority, not an individual.

1. How much forgiveness is required of a Christian?
(Matthew 18:21-22 CSB)

21 Then Peter approached him and asked,
‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?’
22 ‘I tell you, not as many as seven,’ Jesus replied,
‘but seventy times seven.

How would you define forgiveness? Is it just allowing someone to continue taking advantage of you, resetting the count up to 490 to 1 at each occurance? Forgiveness Is more than a one way street. You are not outside your right, or expectation to say, “I forgive, but please stop.” Even Jesus exercised this when he forgave the woman caught in adultery. “I forgive you, go and sin no more.” To forgive, but not expect a reciprocal response, is to condone the injustice.

Still, forgiveness needs to be extended as often as God does… overtime.

For Peter, the culture of his day, and even in our own, we use the principle of “3 strikes and you’re out”. Peter probably felt he was being generous in doubling that number, and adding to it. Jesus played his little legalistic game, took that generosity, and multiplied it exponentially.

What would such a level of grace and forgiveness within the church communicate to unbelievers? You’d think it ought to open up a batch of warm, fuzziness, and people might flock to our church to be saved. Maybe so. In a more practical way, they might think we’re all a bunch of push overs. Morons who just let the world come in and take what they please, or abuse us as much as they like, and the kind, and forgiving Christians will let them.

I don’t think that’s what God wants. It’s possible to forgive, but not trust someone. We don’t have to set ourselves up to be taken advantage of on repeat cycles. A broken trust is one that is hard to rebuild.

Can you forgive someone without loving them? Emphatically, no. The natural reaction is to lash out. Love paves the way to forgive. It cannot exist without love.

2. As Christians, we have received forgiveness
(Matthew 18:23-27 CSB).

23 ‘For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, one who owed ten thousand talents was brought before him. 25 Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt.
26 ‘At this, the servant fell facedown before him and said,
“Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything.”
27 Then the master of that servant had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

In this example of how God’s kingdom works, the amount owed represents an amount that no one can hope to repay. From a couple different sources, the tallest was equivalent to about 6000 days of work, or a full 20 year career for the common laborer. Now multiply that by ten thousand. Even for a wealthy man, a term of multiple lifetimes is out of range of being able to repay it.

If you’ve had a huge financial loan forgiven in your life, there was probably cause to celebrate. Imagine the kind of celebration that will be taking place in God’s kingdom for the forgiveness of our debt of sins.

3. As Christians, we must extend forgiveness
(Matthew 18:28-35 CSB).

28 ‘That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said,
“Pay what you owe!”
29 ‘At this, his fellow servant fell down and began begging him,
“Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.”
30 But he wasn’t willing. Instead, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. 31 When the other servants saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. 32 Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him,
“You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
34 And because he was angry, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

The injustice here is clear. A similar kind of debt was owed, but the forgiveness wasn’t passed along. I have a problem about using this as a teaching to warn Christians they need to forgive… or else. That implies that salvation can be lost by failing to follow biblical teaching and examples. True, Christians above anyone else ought to pay God’s kindness and forgiveness ahead to those who wrong us.

What about when we do our best, but keep tripping over our own two big feet? We intend to do right, we mean well, but the weakness of our human desires gets in the way?

The core thing to look at is the heart, as mentioned in the final phrase in the passage. Clearly the first man didn’t have a forgiving heart. To me that is better represented by the people in the world, who enjoy all of God’s graces by living in his good and abundant creation. They rack up debts against his mercies and blessings. He loves all people, and offers the same forgiveness to all, even those who would throw it back in his face.

I propose to you, the hard hearted servant doesn’t represent the Christian believer, but those who abused God’s blessing, and refuse to extend his kindness. Their action demonstrates whose kingdom they belong to. M maybe they’ve never heard of the godpel message. Maybe they’ve rejected it. Maybe they’ve just been holding back, thinking God is an absent king, and he’ll show them forgiveness and mercy on that last judgement day.

If that’s so, then this parable illustrates their true heart and the wrath that will come their way in all fairness, and rightly so.

Does it represent the fakers? Those do a good job at pretending to be Christians? Again, their heart will be exposed, and that lifetime of self deception will be set right.

Is it possible to truly be a Christian, if we can’t find it in a softened heart to extend the love and forgiveness we received through Jesus to others? The answer should be no. However, it does take some intentional fighting against our human nature. We sometimes show resistance in small, subtle ways. The first step, recognize we do it. Try to be intentional in letting go of those inner thoughts and desires to get back at someone for an infraction against us.

Be challenged by Jesus use of the phrase
“from your heart” to His command to forgive?

Conclusion

To repeat the concepts we came in on…

  • Our debt before God was too great to be paid through our good works or effort,
  • We have received forgiveness through the grace of Jesus Christ, who paid our debt through His death on the cross.
  • God has wiped the slate clean with the blood of His Son.

To wrap up with closing thoughts, our Retrobots David and Callie add to Keith’s thought for the week.

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