Forgiveness is our duty

‘Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Won’t he rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” ’

‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:7-10‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Evil thoughts

I was recently asked to respond to the three questions below. How would you respond?

What does my worldview say about evil out there, and the evil in my own heart and the evil that I commit?

What is evil? To me evil is the direct consequence of the choices humanity and I make when we try to live our lives independently of our Creator. Independent living is loveless living. I find I am completely incapable of loving my wife, my children and my neighbour without the help of God. To me evil is evidence that humanity and I are completely broken and in need of Godly intervention. Human trafficking … corruption … violence … dishonesty … harsh words … gossip … all evidence of living for myself, of trying to replace God and be god – an insane pursuit that leads to complete isolation, shutting out both my Creator and other people.

I have also found that when I try to deal with evil on my own, I fail miserably time and time again. There is only one solution: I have to embrace who Jesus is, what He has done for me and who I become when I accept that His life has been the just payment for the evil I have committed against God and my fellow human beings. Paul summarises it well in Romans 7:21-25, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

What is the appropriate response when I fail to live up to the love God has called me to?

The only response is be honest that I need the love of God the Father, the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ and the strength, wisdom and knowledge that the Holy Spirit gives. This is worked out by confessing my acts of self-centred living to God when I become aware of it. I also need to acknowledge my lack of love to the people who have been affected by it. This is a humbling experience that can be really hard to carry out, but it brings a joyous liberation and freedom that pales in comparison with pridefully holding on to loveless living.

What should be done about a relationship/situation that is not as strong it should be because I had not loved well?

Scripture teaches me to deal with my loveless acts swiftly. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24) Although Jesus spoke these words in the context of the hurt that anger can cause, I believe it is an appropriate response regardless of the circumstance. Matthew later records Jesus’ response to Peter’s question about forgiveness: Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22) So restoring relationships begins with forgiveness because I have been forgiven an eternal debt by God the Father through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

I have had to engage with the humbling process of reconciliation this week. How about you?

The unmerciful servant – Matthew 18:21-35

The kingdom of heaven can be found in different ways, it is more valuable than anything you claim as your own, it is exclusive in that it demands you to be righteous, and now we learn that you need to practice the forgiveness you have been offered to be part of it. Jesus shows through the imagery that it is impossible to ‘pay back’ the debt we owe God for the salvation He offers us in Jesus Christ. Since He has been so merciful to us, we have no choice but to be merciful to others when we need to forgive them.

I know that I don’t fully grasp the forgiveness God has offered me in Christ Jesus. However, this parable helps me to understand that God’s forgiveness rescued me from an eternity of condemnation, something that scares me when I think about it. Now I know some will say ‘What kind of a religion is Christianity if its God uses scare tactics to get people to follow Him?’ If you read the whole Bible you realize that scare tactics are not part of God’s character at all. Actually it is an integral part of Satan’s approach to hold people captive. God wants us to make an informed decision when we make choices that have an eternal outcome. How merciful and gracious of the Creator of the Universe?!

May we always be ready to forgive our sister or brother from the heart.

The two debtors – Luke 7:40-43

40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,d]”>[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Jesus is eating dinner with a Pharisee named Simon when a woman with a bad reputation enters the room. Jesus and the other guests would have been reclining at the dinner table with their feet pointed away from the dinner table. She goes and stands at Jesus’ feet, and starts crying. In fact she cries so much that she is wetting Jesus’ feet. She dries His feet with her hair, and then she pours a really expensive lotion (perfume) on His feet.

This woman’s reaction to Jesus stands in such stark contrast to Simon’s reaction to Jesus that I believe the Teacher decided to use the opportunity to teach Simon, his contemporaries, and us a big lesson. The NETBible puts it this way.

Jesus’ point is that the person who realizes how great a gift forgiveness is (because they have a deep sense of sin) has a great love for the one who forgives, that is, God. The woman’s acts of reverence to Jesus honored him as the one who brought God’s message of grace.

How deep is your sense of sin? Like Simon, or like the woman with the reputation?