But, But, But….Jesuuuuus! Do I Really Have To!: Forgiveness is the Hardest Part of Being A Christ Follower

Posted: April 10, 2015 in Gospel of Luke

Luke 17:1-10 — Forgiveness, hard to get and harder to give. Jesus call us to forgive even if another believer wrongs us seven times a day and each time turns and ask forgiveness, He says, we must forgive. Oh my, Jesus, what are you asking? Forgive those who wrong us repeatedly. That’s a tall order.

There are those who have hurt us deeply. There are those who are just downright mean to us. I had that experience in the time after the break-up of my first marriage. My ex seemed to make her life’s purpose to make my life miserable. Weird stuff. Just downright mean stuff. I won’t go into the details of it all but let’s just say that, back in the day when the television network, ABC, had what they called Monday Night at The Movies, where they would have made-for-TV movies that were really good and really entertaining, well, this divorce would have been a made-for-TV movie. Cruel stuff happened. Things that made you wonder whether someone had lost their grip on reality or not. Forgiveness was not easy. But at some point you realize that forgiveness, or letting go of anger, is easier than holding on to it. To this day, some are still holding on grudges and still playing the blame game. It can eat a person alive. Their anger can become their god. So forgiveness is important to our well being, but do we really have to forgive a person over and over and over. Jesus says yes. Even now in my life with hurts that have been handed to those that I love and care deeply for, my forgiveness as a Christ follower has been tested. Are we to forgive when someone hurts a family member deeply? Are we to hold on to the anger? Are we really to forgive seven times a day?

Let us first notice that Jesus prefaces his remark by saying “if another BELIEVER sins…” All of the steps of rebuke and forgiveness noted here are predicated upon the other person being a believer. These steps are contingent upon the other person being a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Also, first let’s qualify this a bit more too. To rebuke does not mean to point out every sin that we see, because have a boat load ourselves. It means that if there a sin that endangering a person’s walk with Jesus and they do not even see it, rebuke can be an appropriate tool. When we rebuke another Christian, we must check our motives before we start the process. First, ask yourself if you are going to rebuke this person because you love them. When we rebuke fellow believers we must make sure that we are not coming at them in anger. If we are reacting in anger for something they have done to us, then, the rebuke is just hate for hate. We must ask ourselves if we are willing to forgive that person even before we go rebuke them. Are you going to rebuke without forgiveness? That’s just anger and it can be destructive. Only if we are willing to come to a person in love and with an eye toward restoration of a relationship can we go to them and rebuke them. Rebuke without forgiveness is simply an argument. It is simply a continuation of the conflict. We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. When the other person is a believer, there is an expectation that the other person is humble enough of a Christ follower to accept your criticism and seek forgiveness from you. Jesus died on the cross so that we would be made right with God so then should we seek to make relationships right between believers. Sometimes, forgiveness means you restore but love from afar but we should never let our anger at someone for what they have done to us become a festering needy god in our lives. So, this is the way we are to handle believers…what about non-believers?

Phew, Mark. I am glad your are making a qualification between forgiveness for believers and for non-believers? That makes it easier. It is easier to forgive a believer than a non-believer, right? Jesus tells us how to handle unrepentant sin among believers in Matthew 18:15-17 and here in this passage in Luke, but what about non-believers? First, let’s go back to the cross, Jesus died there for you and for me even though we would not be born until 2 millenia later. Now, that’s love. Jesus died for us on the cross even though we are sinners. Now, that’s love. He died for us even though for many of us we spent a lifetime rejecting Him before we accepted His gift of grace. Thus, with non-believers, we cannot expect repentance. With non-believers we cannot expect enough humility to see the error of their ways. With non-believers we cannot expect them to see that they have done anything wrong. With non-believers we cannot expect them to see beyond their own needs. Therefore, we cannot expect them to react as a believer would believe. A believer would recognize his sin when it is pointed out and commit to change (even if it takes a long process of starts, stops, progress, regression, progress). We cannot expect the same from a non-believer. We can fully expect the non-believer to justify their sin as not a sin at all. We can expect the non-believer to even twist our own Scripture to justify their behavior. We can expect the non-believer to cast the Bible aside and say that it is myth and legend so as to justify their own behavior. Are we still to forgive repeated and sometimes flagrant fouls against us?

As we have often heard, we are to be in the world not of it. As we have often heard also, we are to love the sinner and hate the sin (be reminded that this saying is NOT from the Bible, but there is biblical truth in it). It is biblical that God detests sin. It is biblical that Jesus communed with sinners and love them. Thus, it follows that the statement is theologically sound. However, maybe the statement should be, love the sinner and show Him in love how His sin is an offense to a loving God…but hey that takes too long to say. Even if a non-believer is repeatedly hurting us, we are called to forgive the person. Some say that forgiveness is forgetting wrongs. I say forgiveness is remembering the wrongs but loving the person anyway. Forgiveness is choosing to get beyond the hurts. Forgiveness does not mean that we approve of the sins committed but it does say that the person is a child of the Creator and deserves the same level of forgiveness that we are given in Christ by our Creator. Forgiveness means not letting our anger at another person’s sin prevent us from demonstrating the living gospel to them. Sure, forgiveness can mean that you let go of the anger but let go of the person too, particularly if the do not see the wrongs they have committed. We hand the hurts off to Jesus. When we keep our hurts and our angers away from Jesus, we make ourselves gods and we let the hurts and angers become the idol that we worship.

Ultimately, we must forgive those who hurt us. Ultimately, we must choose love over hate. Ultimately, we must let our Daddy in heaven handle this stuff. Through prayer and humbly seeking God’s guidance, forgiveness comes. Sometimes, the prayers are a process too. We start off with the “smite thee” prayers and through the work of the Holy Spirit we come to letting it go to God and we come to forgiveness. Forgiveness means remembering the hurt but loving, choosing to love, anyway. Jesus did it for us. We should do no less. Let us commit to working on this together. Let us look at those we are holding grudges against. Let us look at the person and love them knowing full well that there was a wrong committed and loving them anyway.

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