Here we are at the end of our series on conflict. I am sure some of you are relieved that we are finished. I hope we have all been challenged, and will grow from this truth that we have been studying.
This week, I want to close it out with the last verses of Matthew 18, share a bit on those, do some Q and A and then have a time of response to let The Lord deal with our hearts. Again, the whole point of this series is to grow in how we handle conflict so that we might be a witness to the watching world that says, “yes, we have issues, and yes we struggle, but the blood of Christ is greater than our issues and our struggles.”
Let’s read the text for today.
So the main point of this text is this: The process that Jesus lays out for us here in this teaching is one that will be so hard that we cannot do it in our own strength.
Of course Peter is the one that asked the question that maybe everyone is thinking. “How many times do I have to do this?” That is a reasonable question for sure, I think all of us have thought that at one time or another. All have us have had relationships where we have been hurt by the same person in the same way, and they have struggled and asked for forgiveness so many times. I am not sure about you, but I have struggled with this personally. I can’t tell you how many times I have been selfish and inconsiderate of my wife. I can’t even count the times my priorities have been warped, or I have not thought of her needs first when it came to making plans, or making decisions. And every time I have done that and she has brought it to my attention, I am amazed that she can yet again forgive me for the same thing that she forgave me for last week and the week before that. The reality is though that marriage has to work like that if it is going to work. In the same way, Jesus tells his disciples that He expects that to be the way that His body is to function. We are to have the same type continual forgiveness of one another. Can we all just admit right now that what he is asking us to do is just plain hard? It is incredibly hard. You know why I think it is hard? Because all of us have different strengths and weaknesses, and those usually compliment one another, but when we are in a relationship with people, the things that tend to hurt us the most are things that we don’t struggle with. Therefore, as sinners, we have a tendency to be more self righteous about the things that we don’t struggle with. And, we have a harder time forgiving others who struggle with something that we don’t have a great struggle with.
Let me give a bit of an caricatured example. Right now, there is a very public battle, and debate over the same sex marriage issue and homosexuality in the church and outside the church. It is a major issue, and should be addressed appropriately by churches. I stand on the word of God that any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sin according to the scriptures, that is clear. Many churches are very rightly making a stand on that issue. Many people want to discuss it, and make it at the forefront of the pulpit on Sunday mornings.
At the same time, I believe there is a very dangerous pattern of sin that is plaguing churches all over this country, literally infecting the hearts of millions of people around the world. Now, if I were to preach against this sin as ferociously as many people preach against homosexuality, many of you would have words of caution for me, and may be downright angry at me for it. Why? Because probably no one here struggles with same sex attraction, and many of us to a degree struggle with gluttony, yet the difference is not as large as we would like to believe it is. Sexual perversion is a distortion of God’s intended use for sex, and gluttony is a distortion of God’s intended use for food. Both in their own way are worshipping the creation rather than the creator, and both are sin.
The reason I say this is not to get into a discussion of gluttony, but merely to point out that we in the evangelical church find it easier to go after and be angry about sins that we ourselves do not struggle with, while no one is taking up the charge to fight gluttony and obesity in the church.
The same could be said of many other sins…
My point is not to say we need to rail against those who have committed gluttony, but to say that we are required to treat all repentant sinners with the type of forgiveness that we would want when we confess our greatest weakness. And again, that is hard!
So how do we do it? Well, plain and simple, we look to Jesus. Now here is where the parable really comes into play. Jesus here is juxtaposing two debtors and two masters. One debtor owed an exorbitant amount of money, way more than he could ever repay, think of twenty years salary, that was one talent, and this man owed ten thousand times that amount. While the other owes a hundred days wages to the other man. Let me ask you this, who has the better chance at repaying?
Now, both asked for forgiveness, to the pleaded for mercy. But only one master was willing to forgive.
Now think about this for a minute, who are you in this story? Do you really see your debt to God as big as Jesus says it is in this parable. Because it is! What Jesus is saying to his disciples here is that your debt of sin against God was so incredibly huge, it pales in comparison to anyone’s debt against you. The acts of sin that you have committed, even the ones you don’t realize are so vast, it would be impossible to number them all. While the debt that others may owe you, while significant, is peanuts in comparison.
So, here is the key to all of this, if you are looking to Jesus in the midst of conflict, forgiveness will be way easier. Why, because you realize how much you yourself have been forgiven, and you will see that this person’s sin against you pales in comparison.
Now, I am not saying that their sin wasn’t real, and that there won’t be a process to go through, but here is the thing, when it comes especially to the question of how many times do we need to forgive, ask yourself the question, “How many times do I want to be forgiven?”
Because you owed a debt that you could never repay. Furthermore, you weren’t just in debt, you were spiritually dead. God’s laws are righteous, and Holy. Righteousness cannot dwell with sin, so it must be atoned for and justice must be served. God, in His great mercy and love, sent His son to come and make atonement for us, bearing on the cross all the punishment for our sins, and imputing to us all the righteous deed He had done, thus sealing our forgiveness, and giving life to those who by faith trust in His work on their behalf. That is your story if you are honest, that is my story, that is the story of any believer who has sinned against us, and if God can look upon their sin, and still dies for them, how can we not respond to their request for forgiveness with open arms, and grace filled heart. Whether it’s the first time, or the one hundredth time. Because I can tell you, you have been forgiven by God for the same sin way more times than you will have to forgive anyone else for a repeat sin, as long as you live.
To close out this series, I wanted to give myself and all of us a visual reminder of what we have learned. I made it in the form of a resolution. Now, I am not trying to coerce you into this, I am not asking you to do anything with this other than keep it handy and refer to it when you are going through a conflict. I made it this way because I am making this resolution for myself, and I thought some of you might like to make it to as a reminder of what we have resolved to do in the future.
If you want to make this resolution with me today, please look over it, sign it, and keep it. This isn’t some kind of contract, I don’t want these, this is between you and God…