A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on September 7, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether We Can Be Forgiving Servants Matthew 18:21-35Does your Heavenly Father have anything against you? Is there a sin He hasn’t forgiven you of yet? We certainly hope not. There are too many hurricanes out there to be living in Florida and have God angry at us. However, you heard what happened to that servant in the parable who refused to forgive his fellow servant. And then Jesus looked directly at his disciples and said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Is Jesus looking directly at you today? Is there someone in your past or in your present, whom you haven’t forgiven? But we say, “I can’t forgive, because: He’s not one bit sorry; in fact he laughs about it. Or, I suffer everyday from what he did, and he won’t accept responsibility for any of it. Or, he’s just going to do it again. Or, if I forgive him, I’ll be expected to treat him better; but I don’t even want to see him – in heaven. Or, here’s one more excuse not to forgive someone – he died three years ago.”If we’re hurting this much, how can we forgive from the heart? On the other hand if we don’t forgive, wouldn’t it really stink if that person repented on his death bed and made it to heaven; and we, because we wouldn’t forgive him, ended up in the fire? This whole issue can become a real crisis of faith. However, part of the problem is a lot of people aren’t clear on what forgiveness is, and so they live out their days in bitterness and distrust. But that isn’t what our loving Savior wants for us. He wants us to have peace. He wants us to have certainty of heaven. He wants us to be such shining examples of love that everyone around us will give praise to God. In our text this morning Jesus shows us how: We Can be Forgiving Servants. 1. Forgive with the love God has for us. 2. Forgive as often as God forgives us. We read, “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt – Matthew 18:23-35.” In those days they didn’t have bankruptcy. If you couldn’t pay your bills, your family could be sold as slaves as partial payment, and you’d be thrown into debtor’s prison until you paid the balance, which would be never, because you were in debtor’s prison. This guy in our parable owed his king millions. We don’t how he ran up such a big debt. Whether it was poor management or bad luck, it didn’t matter. He owed millions. How much do we owe our Heavenly King? If we put a dollar figure to each sin, some of us might say, “Millions.” Others might say, “I really haven’t done that much wrong. I’m a good person.” Well, yes and no. For example, when we look closely at God’s commands, such as forgiving one another and loving even our enemies, we may start to feel a little uncomfortable. We may suspect that God does indeed have something against us. Indeed He does. In both the Old and the New Testament, God says, “There is no one righteous, not even one – Romans 3:10.” And now getting back to our parable, imagine what it was like for that servant who owed millions, standing in line, waiting as one by one the king settled accounts. At this point, do you think it would have mattered to him how much the servants in front of him owed? Probably not. In the same way as we stand before God, we don’t need to be comparing ourselves with others. When God judges us, it’s us whom he’ll be judging. We read on, “The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go – Matthew 18:26-27.” Was this man sorry for his debt? Probably he was only sorry for the trouble he was in. Does he accept responsibility that his king was out millions because of him? Not really! He begs for more time, but he wasn’t being honest, because he knew more time wouldn’t change anything. So also for us. Being sorry doesn’t erase our debt with God. Being sorry doesn’t fix the damage we do to others with our sinful words and actions. Similarly our good works can’t pay what we owe to God either, because they’re not as good as we’d like to think, and they’re only what we should be doing in the first place. Nevertheless, just as the king forgave his servant, God has forgiven us! God forgave us by paying our debt for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. In the parable, imagine the servant’s relief when the king didn’t just give more time. He gave him a fresh start! So also, God has given us a fresh start! We are His children! We are heirs with Jesus of heaven! Connected to Jesus through our Baptism, we are pure and holy! And therefore let’s forgive one another with the same love with which God loves us!However, if we forgive so freely and so completely, won’t some abuse our forgiveness and just sin against us more and more? Peter was worried about that, and so he asks Jesus, “"Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times – Matthew 18:21-22.” Doesn’t this seem unreasonable to forgive someone as often as he sins against us? Yet thank God for this passage, because since the time we were washed clean in our baptism, how many times have we sinned against God? More than 70 times 7 – a day? However, we rest in God’s promise, “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness – Lamentations 3:22-23.” This promise doesn’t make us feel free to keep on sinning. Rather it enables us to love God fresh each day; and one way we do that is by forgiving one another each new day. On the other hand, if we refuse to do that, it can’t be because that person’s sins were too many or too great for Christ to pay for them all. It can only be that for whatever reason we have lost sight of our own forgiveness. Now, when that happens, Jesus’ warning in our text does apply to us. But what should we do then? Terrified at the perverseness in our hearts, we can pray, “Lord, have mercy on me. Christ, have mercy upon me. Lord, have mercy upon me.” The Lord has heard our prayer. He has put away all our sins of not forgiving, so believe it! God’s Word leads us to repentance. But what if the person who sinned against us isn’t repentant? What if his sins aren’t just oops anymore, they’re on purpose? When that happens, Jesus told us in our text last week, that we should him his fault just between the two of us, and if he listens we have won our brother over. But if he doesn’t listen, we are to take two or three with us, whom hopefully he will listen to. And if he won’t listen even to them, we are to tell him that before God his sins are not forgiven. Confused? First we’re told to forgive and now we’re told not to forgive. There is no contradiction. As far as we’re concerned, as far as what’s in our hearts, let us see EVERY sin as paid for by Jesus. Then, on the basis of God’s forgiving love, we are to talk to those who sin that they may repent. On the other hand if we don’t talk to them about their sin and we just ignore their sin, that’s not forgiveness. That’s not love. It’s evil, because we are our brother’s keeper, and by their impenitence they’re endangering their souls’ salvation. However, how do we know if someone is really repentant? I mean they might say that what they did was wrong, and they might say they trust in Jesus. But how do we judge if that’s what’s in their heart? Don’t judge. Let God do the judging. But as for us, in our hearts let’s forgive with the love God has for us. Let’s forgive as often as God forgives us. And then let’s deal with each new sinful word and action, as it happens, by speaking to our brother in love for as long as that door is open. But what if he closes that door, or what if he dies? Then we must leave the entire matter in God’s hands. There’s one more possible misunderstanding I’d like to clear up. God forgives us completely as far as our relationship with Him is concerned. But in His forgiving love He may still give us earthly consequences. We on the other hand are to simply forgive as completely as He forgave us; but we are not be dishing out consequences, unless we’re a parent disciplining our children. However, while we ourselves are not to dish out consequences, some sins have natural consequences. For example, God doesn’t require a spouse to take back an adulterer. And God even forbids a congregation from taking back as pastor, who’s sinned grievously, because in both cases, they can be forgiven, but a natural consequence of their sin is they have destroyed trust, and no one care repair that except God. You know what I mean by asterisks. It’s the fine print on your phone bill or a car add in the newspaper. There are no asterisks on God’s forgiveness of us. May we have no asterisks on our forgiveness of others! And finally there are lots of reasons for forgiving as unconditionally as often and as completely as God forgives. Not forgiving adds to our stress and that kind of stress is bad for our health. Not forgiving leads to bitterness and distrust of others and not just that person. Forgiving in Christ on the other hand leads to peace. Forgiving in Christ builds and rebuilds relationships. But best of all forgiving in Christ is a visible proof of faith that brings glory to God. Lord, increase my faith. Amen.

Back to Sermons by Topic