April 12, 2015     Matt 18:15-35  Forgiveness


    I want to talk about forgiveness and not because there is any huge issue in the church.   I do not know of any issue with forgiveness in the church right now.   Forgiveness is really tough.  We love to be forgiven but when we have been wounded we often we do not want to forgive.   We love grace extended to us but find it more difficult to give grace to others.  What I have observed with myself and with others is that when we are wounded we want to punish to the other person.   It is tough to just bear it and to be quiet.  It can be difficult to go to the other person and try to reconcile.  Proverbs 10:12 hatred stirs up contention but love covers all wrongs.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 in the King James translation woe to the world because of offences.  Jesus said offences will come.  I think husbands and wives understand that after a year or so of living together.   We start learning it in school and Jesus said woe to the one who offends.  We hurt and wound each other and many times we do not mean to do it.  Sometimes the enemy takes something and makes it go the wrong way.  The enemy likes to stir up contention. 

    In the Matthew 18 passage Jesus tells us to go to our brother if he has offended us.   In Matthew 5:23 and 24 Jesus said if you remember that your brother has something against you to go to him and deal with it.  Get it cleaned up.  Let there be peace and harmony.   God does not like broken relationships.  If you have offended or sinned against someone own up to it.   Man up to it.   Go and confess it.  It is not you saying well if you are hurt or if you think I did something that was not good I am sorry.  It is not well if you took what I said or did the wrong way.   You go and say I blew it and I was wrong and please forgive me.   God lives in peace, unity and blessing within the God head.  God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit get along and operate with perfect unity.  Because of sin people do not operate in perfect unity but we need to strive for unity.    Sometimes unity cannot be attained.   If you know that you have offended someone or sinned against someone go to them.   If someone has offended or sinned against you then you are to go to them.  In both cases you are responsible.  The bible teaches that you go to them. 

   Did you see the home alone movie?  The child that is left at home goes to church and talks to his neighbor an elderly man.  The neighbor has a broken relationship that has hindered him from seeing his grandchild that has bothered him for years.  God tells us to deal with those issues and be reconciled.  We have to swallow our pride and go.     

    Going to the person who sinned against you should be done as soon as possible.    Sometimes there is the need to let things cool down a little bit but time should not wasted away without going.  If the offender has a pattern of sinning the longer the sin continues the harder it is for the person to break the habit.   For the person who has been wounded more or deeper resentment and the bitterness can come into their life.   It poisons the fellowship.   A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  It is a responsibility and an act of obedience to go to your brother.  It can also be a ministry to go to a brother that has done something wrong.   When you go you should pray also for the working of the HS in the other person’s life.  The first step is to go in private.  You go in humility with a desire to restore, to love and to forgive.  You go and point out their sin.  To reprove is to bring to light or expose their sin.    When a person is confronted in love and in humility there is a much better chance of them receiving the correction and it can be a wonderful time of drawing closer. 

    Some folks find that almost impossible to do.  It is very hard for some to go to another person.  Some have a great fear of going to another.  Many refuse to do it and the result is that they live with hurt feelings.  They live with brokenness which turns to anger and bitterness.  I believe one of the big roots of anger and bitterness is unforgiveness.   I think it is relationships that are broken and have unresolved issues that plague the person carrying them.   It is a weight that pulls them down.  It is a heavy weight.  Unforgiveness can be a huge root cause of bitterness and anger. 

     Other people find it easy to go to someone else with an issue.  In fact some find it too easy.   We need to be very careful how we go to another person.  Galatians 6 brothers if someone is caught in a sin you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself or you also may be tempted.  I believe that a lot of couples get in a mess because they accuse in pride their spouse and I believe that opens a door for Satan to attack.  Pride comes before a fall.  A superior attitude opens the door for an attack whether it is in a marriage or not.   Many people do fall that go to their brother with a superior attitude.   We are drawn to Jesus because of love and forgiveness.   His gentle spirit leads us and draws us and that is how we approach one another.   Jesus is meek and lowly in heart.  Jesus forgives the out casts and the sinners.  

    Do not allow your pride to become critical.  Wounded people can begin to look at all the negative things in the other person’s life.   We can be like the Pharisee that Jesus spoke about who when he prayed said I thank God I am not like that guy a sinner.  Proverbs 6 tells us that God hates 6 things and 7 things are an abomination to him.  The first thing mentioned is pride.   Are we broken today?   Are you broken?   Many people just accuse the other person and do not deal with their own personal issues and the relationship does not heal.  Typically then the relationship goes the wrong way.  The relationship deteriorates and becomes destructive.  If it is a marriage then the spouses no longer are pulling together but pulling apart.  The spouses stop building each other up but can persist in destructive communication.   Typically the other person is not as bad as we make them out to be.  

    So what happens when you go to your brother and he does not repent?  Do you offer forgiveness?   I would say yes we always forgive.  We offer forgiveness no matter how they respond.   Jesus said if your brother listens to you then you have won him over.   But that does not always happen.  The brother does not always repent or confess.  Jesus says you take another and then it goes to the church.   If he refuses to listen to the church then the church exiles him. The final step is to not allow them in church and to treat them as a pagan and a tax collector.    It used to be that he would be out of the church.   Today many just go to another church but in some towns the pastors get together and follow what the scripture teaches.  If you have a problem with someone do not run from the situation.  Go to them in love and humility.  Sometimes folks leave churches because of that.  If God is trying to work in your life and teach you to deal with others then God will allow a similar situation wherever the person goes.  For various reasons some folks just plain church hop.   That is not God’s plan.

   The person to be disciplined is a brother who sins and does not repent.    The brother in this passage refers to a fellow Christian whether male or female.   The person we are to confront is any Christian who sins.  It is implied that the sin continues and there is no repentance.   The reference is for every child of God whether young or old, leader or follower rich or poor etc.   The person has sinned and that means missing the mark of God’s standard.  All sin is an offense against God’s holiness and corrupts the holiness of His people.   A person can be sinned against directly and indirectly.  A person can be maligned, abused, deceived, cheated and etc.   A person’s character can be slandered falsely.   I Timothy 5:20 those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take the warning.  Public rebuke is really tough and generally we do not see that in the church today. 

     The offended person or the person who was sinned against is not to do wrong.  We need to offer forgiveness.  Vengeance is mine says the Lord I will repay.   Sometimes the offended party becomes the offender in that everything the other person does is wrong and they have a critical spirit.   The underlying spirit and attitude that we go to another person in should be one of brokenness and with a desire for restoration and not to get even or punish them.  Both parties should be broken and repentant.   It is sad that all too often that is not the case.  Most of the time there is sin on both sides.  When we go to another there should be a spirit of love and forgiveness offered even as God so offers love and forgiveness to us.   We need to be like Jesus in these issues.   Ephesians 4:32 tells us to be kind tender hearted and forgiving to each other just as God in Christ has forgiven us.  

    God’s desire and plan is for healthy relationships to be built.  Unity and restoration is the goal.  How should a person handle it if the person is dead or if you cannot find out where they live?   Well that is difficult but it has been suggested that you sit in a room and set a chair in front of you and pretend that they are sitting in the chair and discuss it.  This is what I remember that happened to me and this is how I felt about it and I forgive you.  An African woman gave her heart to Christ.  Her husband was the chief of a Zulu tribe.   When she told him what she had done, the chief beat her brutally. As she was lying in the floor bleeding, the man mocked her and said, “Now, what can your Jesus do for you now?”   The woman picked herself up and tearfully said, “He can help me to forgive you.”  Some people say I will never forgive you.  I will never forgive what that person did to me.  Lewis Smedes said: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free.......and only to finally discover that the prisoner was you!" 

    God has given us a tremendous ability to forgive.  An interesting story comes from the horrors of Ravensbruck concentration camp.    Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women. Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, murdered by the Nazis.    Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote The Hiding Place, was imprisoned there too. The prayer, found in the clothing of a dead child, says:  O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will.   But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.   When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.  That is amazing. 

    John Bevere states, “If you are offended and in unforgiveness and refuse to repent of this sin, you have not come to the knowledge of the truth.  You are deceived, and you confuse others with your hypocritical lifestyle. No matter what the revelation, your fruit tells a different story.  You’ll become a spring spewing out bitter waters that will bring deception, not truth” (19, The Bait of Satan).  Jesus tells us to forgive.  Peter comes to Jesus and asks Jesus how many times do I forgive my brother that sins against me 7 times.  Jesus says 70 times 7.  Now it is interesting here that ole Peter is not thinking about how many times he sins against his brother. 

    Jesus wants the relationship to be healed.   Jesus came to reconcile Jew and gentile and Jesus broke down the wall that separated us from each other and from God.  The point of Jesus coming to us was reconciliation and not condemnation.  If we do not forgive we cannot speak the truth in love.  In Ephesians 4 God tells us to forgive as Christ forgave us.   The disciple’s prayer says forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.   Jesus paid the great price to forgive us and on the cross Jesus ask the father to forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.  Jesus showed himself more forgiving than the Jewish leaders several times.  Jesus was more open to receive people than they were.   Jesus love is deeper than our love.  Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners.  He died for us when rejected him.  The bible is the story of God pursuing man and not man pursuing God.   He came to Adam and Eve in the garden when they tried to hide from God.  This is a huge topic and we will pick it up next week with the parable of the unmerciful servant.