The Importance of Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)
Our message series this month is called “Praying with Jesus.” Did you know that the Bible teaches that Jesus is praying for you right now? He wants us to join our prayers with His in order to see God do great things. So, when He was here on this earth, Jesus gave us instructions on how to pray prayers that get answered. Part of those instructions are found in the Lord’s Prayer, an example prayer to teach us how to pray better.
Today, my message is entitled “The Importance of Forgiveness.” We’re going to be talking about the place of forgiveness in prayer, both receiving forgiveness from God for ourselves and giving forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. A woman named Dawn Smith Jordan learned about forgiveness through a very difficult time. Dawn’s seventeen-year-old sister Shari was kidnapped and murdered just two days before her high school graduation. After the body was found, the killer phoned the family several times and described in detail the killing. Eventually, the murderer was caught and given the death sentence. Dawn and her family thought that this difficult chapter in their lives was over. However, the story wasn’t over. A few years later, the convicted murderer wrote Dawn’s family a letter. He told them that he had become a Christian and asked them to forgive him. What would you have done? How would you have responded?
Today, we’re going to look at the part of the Lord’s Prayer dealing with forgiveness.
Matthew 6:12 (NIV) Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Notice that there are two parts to this request. The first is the one most people think about. We are asking God to forgive our sins or debts. This is what repentance is all about. Admitting that we have sinned, asking for God’s forgiveness and then turning away from our sin, which means not doing it anymore. The second part of the petition is often ignored, but is very important. It has to do with forgiving those who have sinned against us, those who have hurt us. In fact, these two parts of this verse are linked. We are asking God to forgive us, just as we have forgiven others. The implication is that is we haven’t forgiven others, then God won’t forgive us. In case, there is any doubt in our minds about what this verse means, Jesus makes it crystal clear in the verses immediately following the Lord’s prayer.
Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
God’s forgiveness of our sins is conditional on our forgiveness of others. This important truth about forgiveness is rarely preached on in churches. The disciples had some questions about forgiveness.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Peter wanted to know what the limit was for forgiveness. The Jews taught at the time that you had to forgive three times. If a person sinned against you in the same way 4 times, you didn’t need to forgive. So, Peter thought he was being very generous, when he suggested forgiving 7 times. Jesus said, no, but 77 times. In other words, our forgiveness must be unlimited. Today, we’re going to look at a parable that Jesus told that further illustrates this principle. It’s often called “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.”