How Can I Ever Forgive You

Matthew 18:21-35 

How can I ever forgive you? You have hurt me for the last time! How many times have we heard or said these types of statements? In our Lord’s Prayer we ask our heavenly Father to forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, so how can we not want to forgive someone? Each Sunday when we pray the Lord ’s Prayer, have we become so numb that we do not think about what we are saying? Any time we feel that we are inclined to withhold our forgiveness this petition of the Lord’s Prayer should immediately stand out in our minds. 

Jesus reminds us that God has forgiven us. Out of love for what our Savior has done for us, we are also to forgive others. Sadly, we are too eager to forget what Jesus has taught us. Peter missed this lesson as well. In our portion of God’s word, Jesus had to give Peter a lesson on what God requires when it comes to forgiveness. Just as God forgives us, we are to forgive others. So when we find ourselves asking, “How Can I Ever Forgive You?” We can say, “Because God has forgiven me, because God gives me the strength to do so.

Because God has forgiven me.

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” For Peter to ask this question he must have thought that  he was being very generous. The rabbinical teaching was that three times were sufficient to forgive. Imagine what Peter must have felt when Jesus told him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy seven times.” Jesus was telling Peter to forgive your brother every time he sins against you. It does not matter how often he sins against you. Think how many times God has forgiven you and me for the sins we commit on a daily basis. Think how many times we have disappointed our Heavenly Father when we fail to do what he has commanded us to do. Jesus uses a parable to explain this to us.

Our Lord tells us about a king and an unmerciful servant. The king is merciful to his servants just as God is merciful to us because of the sinless life, the innocent death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

The king called together his servants in order to settle accounts with them. One of these servants has a debt of 10,000 talents. A debt so large that he can never repay it. The debt of 10,000 talents in this time was a huge sum of money for a servant to owe. One talent = 5000 to 6000 denarii. A days wage for the servant is one denarius. For the servant to pay off his debt would take 139,000 years working 7 days a week and giving every penny he earned to the king. 
Because of his debt, the servant was about to lose all that he loved and owned. The king had every right to do this. The servant borrowed the money and it was his responsibility to pay it back. Even today if we do not pay what we owe, our creditors have a legal right to repossess their property.
The king orders the servant to be put into prison and everything he has to be sold. This includes his wife, children, and all that he owned. The servant falls to his knees before the king and begs for forgiveness. The king forgives the unworthy servant his debt knowing that the servant cannot repay it. 

In the same way, our debt of sin to God is something that we can never pay. Just like the unmerciful servant, our situation is hopeless. Because of our debt of sin we stand to lose the greatest treasure in the world, eternity in heaven. We can never pay our debt to God. In fact it only becomes larger for we could never earn forgiveness as fast as we commit more sins. Our only hope is in the mercy of our gracious and loving God. And God has told us that He freely forgives us all of our sins for Jesus’ sake.

The king shows unlimited mercy to his servant by forgiving the debt just as God has shown his mercy to us. We all stand in the same position before God as that servant stood before his king. We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment.

Just like the unmerciful servant we plead with God saying, “Lord Have mercy!” Like the unmerciful servant who could not meet his king’s demands, there is no way we could do anything to meet God’s demand. God demands perfect righteousness and holiness from us. That simply means no sin! Paul tells us in Romans, “The wages of sin is death.” Because all of us have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,” the wages we have earned are death and eternal damnation in Hell. 

There is no way we can undo the sin. There is no way we can possibly meet God’s demand. But God who is rich in grace, love and mercy forgives us. Not because of anything that we have done, but because of what our savior Jesus has done for us. Jesus lived the perfect life and suffered an innocent death to pay our debt to God. Because of what Christ has done, our debt to God is wiped out. When Christ said on the cross “IT IS FINISHED” he literally meant “PAID IN FULL”. In the original language of the New Testament, the word Jesus used was also used by the shopkeepers of that day to mark a bill paid in full. The Resurrected Jesus stands before us and offers eternal life through the forgiveness of our sins. And we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we for give those who trespass against us.”

We will through the work of the Holy Spirit in us forgive our brother. But it is not always so easy at it may sound. Our sinful nature, the “Old Adam,” finds great comfort in holding a grudge. It may be your brother or sister or even your parents that at some time may have given you cause to be angry with them, or a friend or co-worker perhaps. Whoever it may be you must ask yourself. “After all that Jesus has done for me how can I not do the same out of love for my Savior?” We can forgive others because God has forgiven us. We can forgive others because God gives us strength to do so. 

God gives me the strength to do so.

We now see and understand that we are to forgive others that sin against us because God has forgiven us. However, just like the unmerciful servant we often hold back our forgiveness. After all the king had done for the servant by forgiving his debt when he saw a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii he began to choke his fellow servant and demanded his money. His fellow servant begged for forgiveness, but the unmerciful servant refused and had him thrown in prison until he could pay back all that he owed. It was if the servant forgot what the king had done for him. This was so shocking to all the other servants of the king that they went to tell the king what they had witnessed. The king called the servant back and asked him if he should not have shown the same forgiveness to his fellow servant as he was shown. The king then ordered the servant thrown into prison and tortured until he could pay back all that he owed. 

Jesus tells Peter that this is how God will deal with us if we do not forgive our brother from our heart.

Satan wants us to believe that we have the right to refuse forgiveness to someone who harms us. The devil wants us to imagine that we can obtain some type of satisfaction by holding a grudge or trying to get revenge. But this is spiritual poison that condemns us. If we, who are blessed by forgiveness, refuse to forgive others, we are disobeying God’s word and are in danger of losing our salvation.

The temptation to withhold our forgiveness is a strong one. But God will never let us be tempted more than we can handle. It is no different with our abilities to forgive others. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 

Our God is a loving God. He commands us to forgive our brother and He also provides strength for us to do so. Our strength comes in many forms.

Our Strength comes in the form of Baptism. When we are baptized the Holy Spirit works saving faith in our hearts. At our baptism we were renewed and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. At our baptism there was a new man created in us. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come.” The new man created in us wants to do God’s will. The new man created in us wants to be merciful to others.

Our Strength comes in the form of the Lord’s Supper. Our loving Savior has given to us His precious body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus’ body was given and his blood was poured out to pay our debt to God. The slate has been wiped clean, our sins removed as far as the east is from the west. Each time we partake of the sacred supper we are strengthen by the words “given and poured out for you!” This is God way of dealing with us on an individual basis, assuring us that our sins are forgiven. 

Our Strength comes in the form of love from our Savior and what he has done for us. Yes we can draw strength from the cross of Christ. Each time we look at the cross we can see God’s love for us. The cross is a symbol of forgiveness, and Christ’s love for us enables us to share that forgiveness with others.

Yes we have the strength to forgive others. A strength that comes from God through the Holy Spirit. The strength is created when we are baptized and continues to grow through the means of grace, in word and sacrament. We receive strength as a gift from God. It is His grace that enables us to forgive and it is His grace that forgives us. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, God imparts in us a desire to be forgiving. Our new man wants to forgive others as we have been forgiven. 

Now when someone sins against us God asks us to forgive them. Each Sunday and every opportunity we have to share in the Lord’s body and blood we are strengthened in faith and ability to do what our God commands of us. And on the occasions we fail to follow what our Lord has taught us, we have His forgiveness because of Jesus. We have the strength to forgive and much more, for God has told us in Paul’ letter to the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

There will be times in our lives where forgiveness is going to be asked of us. It may be from our Christian brother or from an unbeliever. The way we respond will show that individual whether or not we practice what we preach. We forgive all people because God has forgiven us. We forgive all people because God strengthens us. May we constantly remember the gift of forgiveness that God has given us in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that whenever we are faced with the temptation of withholding forgiveness we can say, “I have been forgiven, I will also forgive you.” Amen.

Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith in Christ Jesus, Amen.

This message from Christopher Raiford  is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project

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