Forgiveness is costly, but not forgiving can cost even more
Friday, April 29, 2011
IDEA: Forgiveness is costly, but the refusal to forgive is also costly.
PURPOSE: For listeners to recognize the danger in an unwillingness to forgive.
Listen again to one of the stories Jesus told. Listen especially to the application that Jesus made. It is one of the most severe in the entire New Testament.
Matthew 18:21-35—”Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 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. 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, 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, ‘Thou 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.’ “
I. Can you imagine some of the people listening to our conversations?
Spouses who can’t stomach each other. (Look at the passage that follows this in Matthew 19:1-9, about marriage and divorce.)
Hard-hearted people who live in “unholy deadlock” rather than holy wedlock.
Spouses who have been hurt by these people. What do they think about “forgiveness”?
People in churches where they live in anger and hostility toward their pastor or toward each other.
Physicians whose patients have sued them.
II. They find forgiveness difficult because it is costly.
They have to remember what their sin did to God and the forgiveness they have received. It cost God deeply to declare us forgiven.
They have to let go of that person to the Lord. They must especially let go of the desire to retaliate.
They have to pray for that other person and, if possible, do good to them.
They have to do it again and again. This is seldom a once-for-all act.
III. Refusal to forgive is also costly.
It can lead us to torture (Matthew 18:34). The torture suffered by an unforgiving spirit does not start after people die. Some of the most tortured people I know are people who have nursed an unforgiving spirit to keep it warm.
S. I. McMillen in None of These Diseases noted that “The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. He even controls my thoughts. I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me steak, it might as well be stale bread and water. The man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it.”
It can ultimately reveal our own damnation (Matthew 18:35).