Monday, April 28, 2008

The Problem of Forgiveness.


Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? 22 Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servantfell on his knees, imploring him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, Pay what you owe. 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, Have patience with me, and I will pay you. 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. ESV

Pastor Tom Baker of the Law and Gospel broadcast on KFUO radio tells a story of a woman terrified because she cannot forgive another person. The person in question, while intoxicated, killed her husband in a car crash. He was convicted and sent to jail and she is left with no husband and lots of anger toward this careless individual. She heard a sermon on the above text and it was handled very poorly. The sermon ended on an all law stance and she was left with the guilt.
That would be understandable if one were to in pride declare oneself to be more holy than the other person as in the parable and refuse to forgive. In sinful arrogance spit at the law of God in order to carry a grudge and exact revenge. However, this was not the frame of mind for this dear sister. She was heartbroken at the loss of her longtime spouse as anyone should be. She told Pastor Baker that she cannot forgive. He told her she did not HAVE to forgive in order to be saved. What! Does that not contradict the words of Jesus. No because the Gospel is not to be mingled with law. The Gospel carries no requirements. The good news is that Jesus did it all for us.

But how are we to read the words of Jesus in this case and not see how we fall into the wicked servant’s position? Yes that is the purpose of this teaching. To kill us so we do not rely on our abilities to even forgive others. Jesus of course took care of that while on earth. While dying on the cross for the sin of the world He forgave those who were torturing Him and jeering at Him.

Luke 23:32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One! 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself! 38 There was also an inscription over him,This is the King of the Jews. 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. 42 And he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43 And he said to him, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. ESV

Our full sufficiency is in Jesus. Even while being crucified He pleased His Father for us sinners. How glorious and comforting to know His righteousness is ours by faith. We are set free to forgive others and not have to be concerned whether it is good enough.

God’s peace. †

1 comment:

steve martin said...

Excellent post...excellent question. Do we have to forgive?

The correct answer is that we do not, just as we (as Christians) do not have to keep any other law of God.

"Christ is the ebd of the law for all those who have faith." (Romans 10:4)

Those that say we do have to forgive others hav just put themselves back under the yoke of slavery and now are obliged to keep the whole law...every bit of it...and perfectly!

That we are sorry for our sins is enough. That the poor woman who lost her husband to a drunk driver struggles with the problem of forgiveness is enough.

Great topic. Critical topic!

Thanks so much.

- Steve Martin San Clemente, CA