Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who with the Holy Spirit is three-in-one
Today is a day of celebration because, once again, the Lord has blessed us greatly. Today we especially celebrate, because of one of His greatest blessings to us, our school. In a way, it’s what defines us in this community. Our quality teachers and staff have worked with the Holy Spirit to make this school something very special. God looks down upon what He has created through us and He smiles, not because we’re perfect, but because we have chosen to follow His calling.
No school is perfect. Because it’s run by people, it can’t be. Problems are sure to arise because people sometimes make mistakes. Miscommunications are bound to happen, and feelings will get hurt because someone feels slighted or ignored. These things happen in every organization and sometimes they are going to happen even when we try our hardest to avoid them.
Forgiveness is hard, especially when you feel hurt or feel you have been treated with disrespect or carelessness. It’s hard because it’s a precious gift and it doesn’t seem right to be giving such valuable gifts to someone we feel has hurt us in some way. I speak from experience.
I often hear of that one person or that one relative or even that one sibling who someone is not willing to swallow their pride for and forgive. Many times the unforgiveness has lasted so long that they have forgotten why they were even upset in the first place, but instead of taking the admirable path toward forgiveness they have chosen the selfish way of holding, almost cherishing, that grudge.
The chances are great that many if not most of you are guilty of the same things I am guilty of. Many of you have relationships with others that have become shattered because of the lack of forgiveness. Many of you have forsaken that same advice that I have from Christ. We have no excuse and we all stand guilty of the charges against us. We fail to acknowledge our own sins and faults because we’ve chosen to focus on the faults of others.
Martin Luther speaks on this very topic, He says, “God sees far more defects in me then I can see in other people; therefore, I shall be glad to be quiet and forgive if only God also forgives me and is quiet. But this lesson is never learned. In this world one brother is forever rebuking another because of a very small piece of dust in his brother’s eye, while he himself has a large beam in his own eye. For where you have one charge against your neighbor, God has thousands upon thousands against you for never having kept His commandments as long as you have lived and for having sinned against them in many ways.
This you do not see, but want to fall upon your neighbor and destroy him because of a single bad word. Shame on you! Are you so keen-eyed and still cannot see this large beam”?
I’m sure you have your reasons and I’m sure your reluctance to forgive even makes sense to you in some way. It may even be likely that many would agree with your actions. But I ask you to imagine yourself in front of Christ using those same reasons and sensibilities. Imagine yourself before Christ trying to justify the reasons for your broken relationships. What would He say? Would He say “Well done good and faithful servant”? Or would Jesus say, “Your reasons are worthless, pride has no place here, forgive your brother as you would want forgiveness from me.”
Our God is a God of relationship, and we have been created in His image to enjoy relationships with Him and others He has chosen to place in our lives. He has given us every reason to forgive our brother and modals it by His own example of forgiveness for the many sins we have committed. Just as our relationship with God is one of endless forgiveness, so should our relationships with others be. When Jesus told His disciples to forgive seventy times seven times, He meant that we should forgive always and in every way.
So, what should we do as the heirs to God’s kingdom? What needs to happen when we find ourselves in broken relationships in this world? First we have to realize that our broken relationships are the result of bowing to the will of a broken world. Our reluctance to forgive is evidence that we are still affected by the original sin we inherited from the very beginning of time. It didn’t start the first time someone hurt you, it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Then, blame was shifted from the serpent to the woman to the man and it has evolved to the point where it effects every living person today, each of us shifting blame, unwilling to see our part in the brokenness. We are still reluctant to face our own sins so we continue to shift the blame to others thinking that if I can just bury this one relationship then all the blame that rests with us will be buried with him or her.
Can you imagine the argument between Adam and Eve as they found themselves kicked out of the Garden? “Why did you listen to the serpent Eve?” “Where do you get off blaming me Adam?” and so it goes from generation to generation, each too prideful to forgive.
Secondly, we have to be sensitive to the fact that every broken relationship involves hurt on both sides. It doesn’t matter who is really at fault, a broken relationship, born out of the lack of forgiveness, born out of sinful pride does neither party any good.
Like Adam and Eve, we focus on who is at fault. But if we think back to that part of Scripture, we find that God has no patience for the blame game.
Now if anyone had reason to hold a grudge or to be unforgiving, it was Joseph in our Old Testament lesson. More than this, he eventually had the power to exact any kind of revenge he wished upon his brothers even to the point of condemnation and execution and no one would have even batted an eye. Yet Joseph lived by the example of the grace He had witnessed from a God who cared. Because of this he refused to judge as if he were somehow replacing God’s ability to do the same. Instead, He acted as God would have acted and he forgave his brothers. Joseph, I am sure, had feelings of retribution and revenge, but he didn’t let these dark feeling overshadow the light of God.
Instead, Joseph grasped the hope that only God can provide and because of this his relationship with his brothers and his father was restored. He was the better man in the end and the forgiveness he gave served as the balm to heal his broken relationships.
I’m sure that is a place we would all like to find ourselves in, the place where forgiveness is easy and healing is offered. So, what can be done by Christians to reach that place that seems to be so elusive?
First, We must recognize that we are sinners just like everyone else, there are no exceptions no matter how hard we try to reason sin away. None of us are better than any other. We all have fallen short and none of us has grounds to blame the other.
This is why Jesus gave us the parable of the two slaves in our Gospel lesson so that we might see the extent to which we are indebted to our gracious God. The king is God who is gracious enough to heal our sins and forgive our debt, even though this debt deserves nothing but our very condemnation. Just like the person sitting next to you this morning, you have a debt which could never be repaid. The sin that we focus on from someone else is rendered almost insignificant when compared to the charges God has against us, yet we dare fix our eyes on the things we find unforgivable from others. If you do the math in the parable, you’ll begin to see the extent of God’s forgiveness of our sins.
A denarii was equivalent to a day’s wages, therefore the amount the second servant owed the first was equal to 100 days of pay. The amount the first servant owed the king was equal to nearly 183 million days worth of wages, a debt that could never be repaid. It’s no wonder our unforgiving nature grieves God.
Yes, our blame is all too obvious. We deserve nothing because we have continued to live in our sin, giving in to every whim and temptation.
But we have a loving God who didn’t want to leave us with a debt that is insurmountable, so He, out of His goodness and mercy, gave us His only Son so that we could put the debt we owed on him. God gave us a way to settle our accounts out of His infinite grace and forgiveness. He continues to forgive us and to give us the strength to forgive others.
Don’t wait any longer. Call that person you have neglected out of pride, write to that person who has wronged you, sit down with the one who has deceived you and offer your forgiveness. Do whatever you have to, to make it right and I promise I will too. More than that ask for forgiveness from your own faults, even if it is simply the neglect you have shown, because as much as we might want to think otherwise, we bear just as much fault for every broken relationship we find ourselves in.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, both His forgiveness towards us and our ability to forgive others. It’s something we all cherish and, unfortunately, we use its value to hurt others by withholding it. Yes, forgiveness is sometimes very difficult, but sometimes the greatest gifts are great because they are the hardest to give.
The greatest act of forgiveness was witnessed that day when Christ was lifted high on a bloody cross. Despite our sins, despite our guilt, God gave us His Son to pay back the debt we had no hope of ever repaying.
Jesus Christ took our place so that our forgiveness would be complete. No more guilt, no more shame.
Let’s be known as a church and school that knows nothing else but the forgiveness we all cherish, born out of love and made obvious in our actions. God forgave us so that He could be in full relationship with us, unencumbered by the weight of our many sins. May we be so gracious to others.
We will end in prayer using the same words sung in our sermon hymn:
Forgive our sins as we forgive, You taught us, Lord, to pray; But You alone can grant us grace to live the words we say.
How can Your pardon reach and bless the unforgiving heart That broods on wrongs and will not let old bitterness depart?
In blazing light Your cross reveals the truth we dimly knew; What trivial debts are owed to us. How great our debt to You!
Lord, cleanse the depths within our soul and bid resentment cease; Then bound to all in bonds of love, our lives will spread Your peace.