On Sunday I began a new four-part series on forgiveness at Gages Lake. I typically preach in an expository manner -- take a section of the Bible and preach it through. However, there are times when I just feel the need to hone in on a specific subject. So I took four texts on forgiveness and I am going to preach these. The first text I chose was Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus parable of the unjust servant. Jesus gave this story in an answer to Peter, who was curious how many times he was supposed to forgive someone. He suggested the limit should be seven which is twice what the rabbis would suggest plus one. Peter was being pretty generous with his forgiveness here, or so he thought. I'm guessing he has a particular person in mind. Perhaps it's his mother-in-law, perhaps it's a former business associate who cheated him out of money, perhaps its one of the disciples he's been spending a lot of quality time with. Could he have been thinking of Matthew, the former unpatriotic tax cheat? Not sure. All we know is Peter has someone in his life that he just cannot forgive. And so do we.
What I find interesting about this story is that Jesus seems to be saying that forgiveness is not a one-time thing, but a continual thing. Isn't that the whole purpose of 70 x 7? So if Jesus' story of the unjust steward and the radical forgiveness of the King represents our story and the radical forgiveness from our King, this means that daily, sometimes hourly, we need to draw in on the forgiveness we have received at Calvary. Like every single day we have opportunities to forgive, which means every single day we must go back to the place where we have been forgiven. And it is only when we go back to our King and recognize our own enormous, unpayable debt, that we find the power to forgive others of the their much lesser debts to us.
I'm learning this anew in my life. I'm learning that gospel forgiveness is an essential oil of every important human relationship. It's the wash cycle that helps us endure through the years. In my marriage, I must constantly forgive and be forgiven. I must say sorry and repent. I must not hold grievances. And the only way I can do this is if I continually, daily, go back to the place of my own grievous sin against God and remember that He is not holding it against me.
It's the same way with my children. I must forgive them and they must learn to forgive me. Daily.
It's the same way with my coworkers, the members of my church, my family, my neighbors.
Forgiveness is a way of life. It's a regular part of the broken human experience.
This is why the gospel matters in daily life. Because only forgiven people can forgive. Only free people can free others of their debts.