Peter smiled. These were his “brothers in the faith”, his "fellow disciples," his "family." They had spent months together. They had learned together. They had eaten together. They had defended each other. They were a wonderful little family filled with people that he loved.
WHACK! A heavy slap hit Peter in the middle of his back. He turned around as he felt a familiar hand ruffle his hair. “What’s up Pete?”
That was Andrew. Peter’s real brother and the only part of this little “family” who knew just how to annoy him. He knew just how get under Peter’s nerves. Before they were disciples, they had been fishermen together. Andrew was known for taking credit for the haul of fish. Everyone once in awhile he took fish guts and stuffed them into Peter’s tunic while he wasn’t looking. There was that one time that Peter lost his net, searched for it everywhere, and then found Andrew calmly fishing with a brand new net offshore. He insisted that it was his, but Peter knew better.
Andrew was the one who made this whole family feel like a family. He sinned against Peter on more than one occasion.
But unfortunately, being a part of this whole Jesus movement meant that he was supposed to forgive Andrew. That’s what Jesus talked about. “Forgive each other.” Jesus harped on it.
Peter began to towel off his beard as Jesus approached him with a warm smile. “There must be a limit though,” he thought. "There must be a moment when the sins are too great, when forgiveness is impossible."
“Master,” he asked as he got Jesus’ attention, “how many times shall I forgive my brother?” His eyes were fixed on Andrew. “Up to seven times?"
To be fair that seemed legitimately compassionate. It “took the plank out of his eyes” and “treated others as he wanted to be treated.” It “loved his named as himself” and was a “salt of the earth” decision. It was just a bit crazy from the normal way of doing things…which was the way that Jesus rolled.
It just wasn’t crazy enough.
22 Jesus replied, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times."
Today we’re going to continue our series called Family Matters. We just got done talking about communication and how to deal with anger. This will wrap up this whole section on interacting with one another. We’re going to answer Peter’s Question:
(1) How much We are to Forgive
(2) How We go about Forgiving People Who have Hurt Us
Ready? Let’s pray to God and ask his blessing:
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. How Much Are We to Forgive
To teach his disciples about how much they ought to forgive, he told this story.
There was a King. Since he was king, the modern equivalent might be a C.E.O. (Think Shark on Shark Tank). He had many servants. He had many cooks. He had many massage therapists. He had lots of people who did whatever he said.
He had a gigantic place. A mansion to rival the Biltmore. He wore a Gucci robe. He had a chair decked out with the softest plush seat and the most beautiful diamond studs. He had the latest iPhone update – the one that didn’t even hit stores yet. He had his own drone, a piece of the original Millennium Falcon, and he had Hulu without the commercial interruptions.
He was rich.
Because he was rich he often had helped out his servants. He would loan them some money. He would get some income. They would use it to start their own business. Others would use it to buy a car. He had become a rival to Visa and Mastercard.
On this day he was going to settle his accounts. Servant after servant came in and made payments on what they owed him.
One servant came in who owed the King 10,000 bags of Gold or about a million dollars.
But all he had to offer the king? A crumpled up IOU.
“Seize him!” the CEO told his guards. And rightly so. The man had basically stolen millions of dollars from him. He wasn’t ever going to pay him back. He had frauded him out of his possessions. He had broken the seventh commandment – “You shall not steal.” He was worthy of punishment. The law was on his side.
And the servant knew it. “Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything." "I’ll work 100 hours a week. I’ll ransack my closet and sell things on eBay. I’ll take surveys online for an extra dollar. Please don’t send me to jail. Please don’t rip me from my family. Please don’t punish them for my failure. Please …have mercy.”
The C.E.O. looked down at the servant. He saw his tears. He saw his distress. He saw his sadness.
And he had compassion. He cancelled the debt and let him go.
Isn’t that amazing? One million dollar debt – cancelled. Not lessened to a hundred thousand. Not changed to a work equivalent. Not worked out through property seizure.
And this isn’t just a nice puff piece that makes it way onto the last few minutes of the nightly news. REMEMBER: Jesus told this story in order to teach his disciples about forgiveness. There is a deeper spiritual meaning to this story.
The king represents God. God is way richer than the king or our modern equivalent C.E.O. Since we serve God, we are his servants.
We owe God a lot. Millions really.
Imagine for a moment that one sin was equal to $1. Every time you sinned, you had to pay God $1. Now let’s imagine that you had 1 sin per minute. (Yes, there may be moments where there are less sins – while you are sleeping. But there are others minutes where you get real mad and sin about 20 times in your thoughts in the span of 15 seconds.) 1 sin per minute at $1 per sin is $60 for an hour of sinning.
Now there are 24 hours in a day. That’s $1440 per day. 365 days in a year? That’s $525,600 per year. (Do you make that much?) The average age in this congregation is 40. That’s $21,024,000 owed to God as the average debt for people at Gethsemane.
I’m not positive, but I imagine we wouldn’t even be able to gather enough funding to pay for one of us.
But here’s the deal. The price of sin isn’t a dollar. It’s a death. One death for every sin. Romans 6:13 says, “the wages of sin is death.”
That’s an impossible price! Even if we died one death that would still only pay for one sin. At millions of sins over a lifetime that’s millions of deaths!
Or eternal death.
There’s only one who had the spiritual funding to pay for our millions of sin.
There’s only one who has the spiritual funding to pay your bill completely.
There is only One who had the divine value in his blood necessary to pay for our eternal debt.
His blood had divine value and infinite amount of funding. When he died on the cross, he paid for your first sin, your second sin, your third sin and so on and so on…until every last sin was paid for.
And your debt? Was cancelled. Millions of millions of sins cancelled – on the cross.
Millions and millions of deaths owed? Paid for with his death.
You want proof? He lives! That doesn’t happen if it didn’t work. He’d still be working on paying the next sin.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Consider the glorious truth contained in those words. You owed a debt you could not pay; Jesus paid a debt He did not owe. God forgave you all of your sins.
II. How We are to Forgive
That feels pretty awesome doesn’t it? It almost makes you want to go celebrate. Go get some streamers; go grab some of those squeaky noise makers; turn on the Pandora party station and jam!
But that’s not what the servant in our story did.
Instead, he found his friends. Maybe at the local pub. The place where all the other servants hung out. He had a celebratory drink, but then in the corner of his eye he saw a fellow servant (Let’s call him Bob.) Bob owed him some money – 100 silver coins. He had lent Bob the money years ago, but Bob still hadn’t paid him back. It wasn’t a small amount; it was a few months wages. But it wasn’t unpayable either.
The servant took a glug of his beer. He slammed it to the table. He walked across the room and grabbed Bob by the throat. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back!”
Sound familiar? Those words had been spoken before. They must have echoed in the ears of the servant –reminding him about how he had been in the same, much – much worse situation hours earlier.
Same situation; same result? Not so much.
The servant refused. He found the local law enforcement by the door. He brought charges against the man for fraud. He had the man arrested. He mocked him as he was thrown into prison. Then, he went on his way home.
But some other servants were at the pub. Some other servants saw the whole thing. Some other servants remembered how he had been boasting about having his debt forgiven by the C.E.O Some others servants couldn’t help but tell the king what had happened.
The next morning, the man made his way into work and found an email saying that he needed to see the King immediately. He packed his things up and whistled on his way to the C.E.O.’s office – they were such good buds now. He probably wanted to be his friends on Facebook.
But when he entered the room and he saw the anger in his boss’s eyes, something told him this wasn’t going to be a pleasant visit.
32 "You wicked servant…I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”
The man stood there speechless. There was nothing to say. He had been forgiven an impossibly large amount. He had been unforgiving about a much smaller one.
In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. That means he never paid it back. (You don’t make a lot of money for being tortured in jail.)
What do you think? Did the man deserve it? Yes? Sounds good right?
Here’s the turn...Jesus says this, “This –unforgiveness and making you pay the debt that you owe – millions of deaths in hell – is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive you brother or sister from your heart.”
Does it still sound good?
This happens so often in family. There’s not anyone you’re going to sin against more than your family simply because there’s no one you will be in proximity to more than your family. As a result – unforgiveness is a huge temptation. A huge temptation and it’s wrong.
If you are refusing to forgive your wife because she keeps going over budget…
Or refusing to forgive your husband because he keeps losing his temper…
Or refusing to forgive your kid because they keep disobeying…
Or refusing to forgive your brother because he keeps using your dolls as action figures…
Or refusing to forgive your loved one OR an ex-loved one because they did something awful to you…
…You are putting yourself in danger of God doing the same to you.
But pastor, what they did is too repetitive and too awful. You don’t know what it’s like.
You’re right. I don’t. But God does. God does because that sin against you was also a sin against God. He felt it. He suffered for it. He died for it and now he says to you, “Do you really want to be fair? Do you really want God’s family to be about unforgiveness? Do you want to see what it’s like when I do that to you?
Forgive us Lord. Forgive us for our unforgiving hearts.
Thankfully. When Jesus died on the cross, he also died for unforgiveness. It means if you are convicted by God’s Word right now, repent. Look at the cross. See your sins – even your sins of an unforgiving heart – on Jesus.
Listen to God’s Word. “In Jesus you are forgiven. You are forgiven for your unforgiveness.”
III. WHAT NOW?
Zero in on verse 35 again. It says “Forgive your brothers and sisters from the heart.” That’s what God did. He removed the pain and hurt that was in his heart and he made you right with him.
That means it isn’t enough to say, “I forgive you.” It isn’t enough to simply text, “No worries.” It isn’t enough to say “We’re cool,” only to bring it up again and again whenever you want something from your spouse.
That heart needs to let it go. It needs to let it go for you. It needs to let it go for them. It needs to let it go for God.
And yes, I know that wasn’t the point of the song Let It Go from Frozen. Elsa was talking about her magical ice freezing powers. But, I’ll tell you what, forgiveness is freeing. Gone is the tension whenever you hear that person’s name. Gone is the nervousness whenever you are alone with them. Gone is the yelling and the anger.
It’s replaced with God’s love. With God’s heart. With God’s mercy. With God’s compassion.