When we have been sinned against and must forgive, it's not always easy. Where do we find the power to extend the mercy of forgiveness?
Key text: Matthew 18:21-35
This text is oh-so important for marriage (and all the rest of our relationships)! Make sure you don’t miss the conclusion in verse 35:
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
If we refuse to forgive our spouse from our heart (or others who request our forgiveness), what does that mean?
In case this throws you—if it seems to suggest that God is unmerciful to his own children—let me emphasize the driving truth of this parable. Extending true forgiveness is clear and persuasive evidence that we have been forgiven by God. The bottom line is that forgiven sinners forgive sin. (100)
If you refuse to forgive someone (from your heart!) who has sought your forgiveness, you need to ask yourself, “Would I want my heavenly Father to deal with me and my sins as I am dealing with this other person who has sinned against me?”
Listen to Harvey’s wise words:
…we do not truly grasp the good news of Jesus Christ in the gospel until we see that our sin against a holy God is a far greater injustice than anything that could be done to us. (103)
Do you believe that?
Harvey tests our belief with this statement:
My petty indifference to my wife (or husband) is sufficient to warrant the full wrath of a holy God and required the blood of my Savior to take it away. (103)
Do you realize that the amount or degree of your sin before God is always greater than the amount or degree of someone else’s sin against you? Harvey points out why on pages 103-104:
[The] status of the one sinned against is key…. [As] one of the Puritans prayed, “Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.” The “size” of a sin is not ultimately determined by the sin itself, but by the one who is sinned against. Sin is infinitely wicked because it rejects the one who is infinitely holy and good.
If you live life in light of the gospel, if you live life honestly aware of your 10,000 talent-like debt of sin, if you live life looking up toward your holy and merciful Savior who said, “It is finished!” on the cross, then the sin of others will always be small and peripheral in comparison.
If that (i.e. “10,000 talent” forgiveness) is the measure of the forgiveness the disciple has received, any limitation on the forgiveness he shows to his brother is unthinkable.” (Harvey quoting Matthew Henry, 104)
If, on the other hand, you live life with your eyes focused on the sin of others against you, then the greatness of your sin and the greatness of God’s mercy to forgive the greatness of your sin’s debt will be peripheral at best. And when the greatness of your sin and the greatness of God’s mercy are peripheral, and the sin of others is central, then you will choke others for payment rather than mercifully forgive.
If we really get this…we will be empowered to forgive others. And we do need power to forgive! Because forgiveness is costly.