Jesus has already told His disciples, “It’s going to cost Me My life,” and now Peter’s asking the question, “Lord, how many times do I have to forgive my brother?” Well, the answer is, how much debt has been forgiven you? And how many times have you been forgiven? How has your King and your Master treated you? These are the questions we should be asking ourself when it comes to dealing with our brothers, when it comes to dealing with our sisters, when it comes to dealing with even those people in the world. See, we know now that there is no possible way for us to forgive in this way without the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us. I’ve been asked the question many times: well, what is forgiveness? Well, we’ve just learned today what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is pity, forgiveness is compassion, forgiveness is mercy knowing that we’ve been wronged. It’s not saying to act as though you weren’t wronged…
We want our pound of flesh. But yet, we look at our brother and we know that there is no way. No way he can pay us. No way he can undo what he’s done. There have been many times that I’ve been hurt, and the hurt that was done to me that no matter how many times the person apologized, the hurt did not go away. There are things that happen to us that someone saying, “I’m sorry,” can not heal. But does that mean that because we’ve been hurt that we have to respond out of that hurt? No. Because we, then, choose to carry the hurt, to carry the wound, and have pity and compassion on the one who wounded us. And how many times do we have to do that? How many times do we have to consider our brother when he comes to us and says, “Forgive me”? “Ugh! I’m still bleeding here, and you’re saying forgive me? And I’m just supposed to walk away?” Yes. Yes! Because how many times have we wounded our brother and left him bleeding, and never said “I’m sorry,” and never said, “Forgive me”? In our own minds, convincing ourselves that he also deserved that?
But yet, God forgives. We keep adding to that debt that we owe God, but yet, in the blood of Jesus, He’s forgiven. He’s had compassion, and He shows mercy. Doesn’t mean that He’s not been hurt. Doesn’t mean that we don’t owe the debt…
Jesus is saying that if we, like this wicked servant, can owe God such a great debt, and God forgive us, no matter what it is that our brother does to us, compared to what we owe God, it’s a minor thing. It’s a few dollars compared to the millions we owe God. When we find ourselves in a struggle, when we find ourselves arguing, when we find ourselves fighting, when we find ourselves in a dispute, when we find ourselves hurting because of something that someone’s done to us, we can be patient just as this king was patient. But what have we learned about patience already? How do you find patience? Patience is a byproduct, right? We’re told that patience comes from understanding.
Romans 5 tells us very clearly that there are steps that cause us to grow and cause certain fruit to be displayed in us, and you’re not going to be patient until you understand. So that means you look at your brother, the one who’s wounded you, and you try to understand who he is and where he’s coming from, and then once you understand, once you begin to see, maybe your brother had a rough day or has had a rough life and is only responding himself like a wounded animal… We approach a brother and he snaps at us and says nasty things to us, and we all of a sudden are assuming the worst. We have no idea what that brother’s been through. We have no idea the wound that he has to himself that’s left him bleeding and hurting. So, we seek understanding. With understanding comes patience, and with patience we can show pity, we can show mercy, and that’s what God desires, and that’s what God requires. And if we’re not forgiving our brothers, John tells us if we’re not loving our brother and forgiving, then God is not in us. We do not have the relationship that we claim to have.
Now, does that mean that tomorrow I’m going to wake up and all of a sudden love everybody who’s ever hurt me? No. It’s a process. Fruit grows slowly, and it’s a process. But understand something in your life: what Jesus is getting across to Peter, what Jesus is getting across to His disciples, that within this process, you might have to forgive well beyond what your imagination is telling you you can forgive. Even that number of perfection: seven times? If I forgive my brother seven times, I’m doing pretty good, but Jesus is saying, don’t stop there. Multiply that out seventy times, and then you’re getting close. Show mercy and have compassion that many times. Try to understand your brother that many times. Try to seek resolution that many times. Try to make it right with your brother that many times, and then you’re getting to where the King is and the compassion that He has; his desire to bring us into that love relationship with Him.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” That is our goal. Always, to win our brother over, to have that love relationship. Not to drive him away. Not to find excuse or reason to be angry and mad. It is always to win our brother over. Difficult? Yes. Do-able? Yes, because Jesus said it was. But it only comes in a love relationship with the One Who is the Author of forgiveness, the Author of mercy, the Author of compassion, the Author of kindness. The One Who, when you look into the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five, when you read through what those fruits are you’ll find many of them have to do with the ability to forgive. Without them, you’re lost.
So first, seek to be forgiven by the Master and enter into that relationship, and once you truly understand what your Master has done for you, then you’ll have a little bit of understanding of how you need to interact with others around you.
Pastor Dave Elkins