Responding with Forgiveness Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Text: Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?
Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-35
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
How do you respond when you have been mistreated and hurt? All of us would probably have to admit that when we have been mistreated, we find it hard to have a Christ-like mind and to express the forgiving Spirit of Christ toward those who have mistreated us. We are more likely to become angry and try to get even. But responding with anger, hostility, bitterness, and retaliation is the Devil’s way of destroying your home, your family, and your fellowship with others. The subject today is “Responding with Forgiveness.” There are three points I want to make about forgiving those who have wronged us, and the first is:
We All Have Experienced the Pain of Being Mistreated.
Every human being experiences mistreatment from others. How we deal with it will go a long way toward determining our well being and happiness in life. Let me list for you some of the ways people are abused and mistreated.
First, some have suffered abuse and mistreatment by their parents or by others in positions of authority over them while they were young and helpless. I don’t even like to think about children being abused. Just the thought makes me angry. Yet, the news is full of this type of thing. As I write this sermon, a child was found locked in a closet; her mother kept her there and rarely let her out. Children in Africa are starving because soldiers will not allow food to get through to them. A little girl in Florida is abused and then killed by a child molester. I can’t begin to imagine the hurt that the parents are going through.
It’s not only children who are abused, many people experience repeated mistreatment in marriage. Dr. David Mace has stated that marriage provides the occasion for the experience of anger more than any other relationship in life because of its length and the close relationship it represents between two human beings, who at times may threaten one another. Spousal abuse is so predominant now that safe houses have been set up in most cities to protect the wife and children from a husband and father that is out of control. I was watching Cops the other day; you know, the TV show that shows real police officers doing their job. What do you think most of the show was about? It was about domestic violence; usually, a husband has beaten his wife, but sometimes it’s the other way around. I hope no one in here has ever been the object of abuse from their spouse.
Now, here’s something you don’t hear much about, but it happens. Parents often experience pain and agony through the immature and selfish attitude of their children. Drug use by young people, some who aren’t even teenagers yet, creates an atmosphere of fear in the home, because the addict will do anything to satisfy their habit. In fact, most of the crime today is done by junkies who steal and harm others to buy more dope.
Children can also cause parents pain in other less threatening ways, and if you’re a parent, you know what I mean. Let me give you a personal example. I have a son in Kansas City that is in his thirties. Michael refuses to have anything to do with Sierra and me; in fact, we haven’t spoken in several years. It’s all because of jealousy. I won’t give you the details, but the point is, I think about him every day, and it hurts. I love him and I ask God continually to restore our fellowship. I pray that God will bring us back together before I die.
There is even another source of mistreatment: many experience pain and agony because of the stupidity and selfishness of a brother or sister. The Bible has the most famous example of abuse of one brother by another. The two brothers I talking about are Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve. Even though they had the same parents and were raised the same, these boys were as different as night and day. Cain became a farmer, while Abel was a shepherd of sheep. At that time, everyone knew God and everyone worshipped Him. There were no atheists, because it was too soon after creation. I believe Adam told his sons all about what happened in the Garden of Eden, and how God made them leave the garden because they sinned by disobeying Him. He must have also told them how the Lord showed that He loved them by making them clothes from animal skins. Somehow, God revealed to them that their worship of Him must include the sacrifice of an animal. So Cain and Abel knew what God expected of them, but when the day for the sacrifice came there was a problem. Abel brought a sheep, but Cain brought some vegetables from his garden. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. He was angry with Cain and let him know it. But Cain didn’t like it, so he was mad at God, and jealous of Abel. He couldn’t get over it, and therefore he murdered Abel while he was working in the fields. Well, most arguments between brothers and sisters don’t end with murder, but they can cause pain and agony.
There’s one more source of pain: many people experience pain on the job where they earn their living. It seems like any place I’ve ever worked, there was at least one person that didn’t like me. Sometimes they would hurt me in some way. There’s a saying children use, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I believe you will agree when I say that statement is not true. It’s a long day on the job, when others make fun of you and criticize your work. Words have done more damage and caused more hurt than anything else.
Words have started fights and wars, broke the heart of a loved one, and damaged children. The Bible compares hurtful words to a fire that destroys everything in its path. Every Christian must learn to control their tongue, because words spoken angrily or without thought can ruin their witness for Christ.
Peter must have experienced discomfort and injury from his brother, because one day he came to the Lord with this question, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus’ answer must have surprised Peter, because he replied by telling Peter that he should forgive seventy times seven.” In other words, we are to forgive those who hurt us every time.
At this Point, let’s look at what Jesus Taught about Forgiveness.
Our Lord comes through crisp and clear on how we are to deal with hurt and abuse. For one thing, our Lord specifically forbids retaliation. Our natural tendency is to want to get even, but that’s just the opposite of what Jesus taught and how He acted. He said that if you are slapped on one cheek, turn and offer the other cheek. We are to avoid being vindictive and revengeful. We are to avoid striking out and returning evil for evil, curse for curse, blow for blow, injury for injury. That only creates a situation of being hurt and getting even that may never end. Instead, put an end to it by showing kindness to the one who has hurt you.