Forgive as the Lord forgave you

Forgive as the Lord forgave you – a sermon on Matthew 18:21-35 by Rev Colin Pretorius.

All of us have at times been hurt. We’ve all had someone break our heart by doing something very hurtful – it may have been a girlfriend or a husband, a friend or a colleague or a brother or sister. Perhaps it was something minor which you got over fairly quickly, or perhaps it was something major. We’ve all been there. How do we respond to such things? How should we respond? How do we forgive, with all our heart? Or have those hurts so festered inside us that they keep welling up? A man once said: “You know, when my wife and I argue, she gets historical.” His friend asked “Don’t you mean hysterical?” “No,” he replied, “I mean historical! She is always bringing up the past!” Yes, unforgiving people seem to have very good memories!

Friends, our passages today deal with forgiveness. They deal with what forgiveness looks like in our lives – or what it should look like. Jesus is telling all those who claim to be His followers, what forgiveness is all about.

The first passage which we read this morning from Matthew 6 gives us Jesus’ commentary on verse 12, which is part of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Forgive us our debts,’ Jesus taught us to pray, ‘as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Jesus goes on to explain this request to His disciples, adding:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And in the parable we read earlier, Jesus further elaborates what it means to forgive, what true forgiveness looks like. When we read these passages, we have to ask ourselves what it is that Jesus wanted His disciples to understand – what was the message, what was it that He wanted them, and His followers across all ages to understand and apply in their lives?

There are at least two things in these texts that we need to grapple with if we are going to live lives of Christian forgiveness:

    • The first thing is that we all need forgiveness because we all fall so desperately short of the glory of God.
    • And the second is that the forgiveness that we have received has to flow out into our lives too.

Or to put it more succinctly, these passages have to do with:

    • Divine forgiveness; and
    • Human forgiveness.