Well in my plans for preaching Philemon, I accomplished the expositional goals that I had.
I’ve shown the deeper issue in forgiveness that while Paul was exhorting Philemon to forgive Onesimus, Paul was showing him the bigger picture in what Christ did by forgiving him.
As we looked at that, however, I didn’t really address the issue of forgiveness as it pertains to us and how we are called to act toward others.
C.S. Lewis said /“everyone thinks forgiveness is a beautiful idea until they have something to forgive”/
So, we know that Christ has forgiven us greatly.
But what about me?
So, the question in my title, *“Me Forgive?”.
So, this message is part of what we are learning in Philemon, yet my text isn’t in this little letter.
So I consider this message an addendum to this series.
Let’s take this out of the theoretical and put it in the practical.
Let us move from orthodoxy into orthopraxy, from doctrine to practice, from sermon to lifestyle.
What does Jesus say about the topic?
If you will allow me, I want to move us around these verses to help us answer the question.
If you will walk through it with me, we will answer some questions about Forgiveness.
1st and foundational Question is …
Must I Forgive?*
The word forgive/forgiveness is found 150 times in 127 verses in the NIV.
We are certainly happy that God forgives, but MUST I FORGIVE?
!! A. Do I HAVE to?
The SIMPLE answer is “ONLY if you want to OBEY Jesus.”
If your brother sins and repents, FORGIVE HIM
Forgive – /aphiemi (af-ee-ay-mee) = to send away as in a divorce, to let go; to disregard; to yield up; to leave unpunished; pardon /
So, the foundational answer for us is that when conditions are met, we must forgive in order to OBEY our Lord
We must divorce ourselves from vengeance.
We must let the guilt go.
We must pardon the one who has offended.
We must reengage the relationship.
And THAT, fellow travelers is the issue.
The most important thing is relationship.
No one is any island.
So, for the benefit of each other, we must forgive when conditions are met.
So, yes, I must forgive, but besides the command of Christ …
!! B. Why?
Why Must I Forgive?
There is that understanding here that in this sinful world there are all kinds of things that cause people to sin.
Jesus says /“woe” – ouai (oo-ah-ee) = alas, woe, disaster, calamity/
We should be very afraid if we are a conduit, a vehicle, by which we cause others to sin.
Especially the “little ones” who follow, Jesus says it is better if we are tossed into the ocean with a concrete necklace that to cause others to sin.
And then, Jesus shows us that in the area of forgiveness, we have to "watch" ourselves – /prosecho = take heed, be careful about not forgiving.
Unforgiveness is a ripe bed of bacteria for sin.
It is a Petri dish where all kinds of sin cultivates; and it is terribly contagious.
When we fail to forgive, sin comes to us, from us, through us, and we can cause others to sin.
Hatred or contempt grows.
Resentment builds in us or the one we will not forgive.
Have you ever noticed that if you have hatred or disdain for someone that it then shows up in your children or spouse and they don’t even know why.
I must forgive, so that sin cannot have a foothold and I cannot infect others.
The greatest defense is to defeat it by forgiving.
Before we address HOW to forgive, let’s answer another burning question …
!! C. How Often
Quick Answer: “As often as they ask.”
Remember that the Number, 7, is a number of Divine Perfection.
In Matthew 18:21-22 – Peter asks /“how many times shall I forgive my brother, Seven times?”/
That sounds pretty good right?
Jesus says /“70 TIMES 7”/ or if you will, perfection to the 10th power times perfection.
Here in Luke 17, Jesus says “I don’t care if this person comes back to you seven times in ONE DAY, forgive him” … and the Disciples say /“Increase our Faith”/
I just had to laugh when I read that.
They were saying, “What?” “How?” “I Can’t” or “We Need Help”.
If you read Matthew 18:21-35, you will see that God is serious in his expectation of us forgiving because our debt was so great to him.
No one owes us what we owed God.
So … then …if I must forgive …
What is the Process of Forgiveness?
Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of it
!! A. What is Required?
C.S. Lewis said /“real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the one who has done it."/
*READ – vv5-6*
Faith to Uproot a Tree …
Sometimes I think we miss the truth, because we are getting chocked on the unbelievable …
while ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE with God … and certainly within the will of God and under his power it would be possible to uproot a tree and throw into the sea … but we see this and we think … “I can’t do that and so I don’t have enough faith so … I certainly can’t defeat unforgiveness either”.
But I don’t think he was telling them they could or should uproot trees, I think he was comparing the tree, that they knew well, to Unforgiveness and bitterness and telling them they CAN uproot this sin in their lives.
If he had been walking by a trash can he could have said “you can take this trash and throw it in the dump” and by “trash” meaning unforgiveness.
Now this word that the NIV, ESV, NASB all translate as “Mulberry” … is not just ANY mulberry but a species of it called a /Sycamine/ … that is the Greek Word.
And in the Luke 19:4 they translate this same word “Sycamore Tree” when Zacchaeus climbs it.
Anyway … I won’t belabor the point but hear it like they would have … I found some information about this tree yesterday after I was finished studying.
1)This tree, had large deep roots and so does our bitterness when Unforgiveness is left alone.
2) this tree grew fast and in DRY areas and so Unforgiveness grows easily when we are spiritually dry 3) it was a preferred wood for caskets … and so unforgiveness is a place of death 4) the fruit of this Sycamine tree was a bitter fig.
Unlike its other Mulberry cousins it was bitter and could only be eaten a little at a time.
So is bitterness, well … BITTER 5) This tree is only pollinated by the sting of a WASP … yep … and unforgiveness grows when we are stung
Jesus was passing by this deep rooted, dry climate growing, casket material, bitter, wasp pollinated tree … and Jesus knew the disciples didn’t think they could get rid of unforgiveness.
So he compared it to this tree as they walked passed it and said, “you uproot this tree of unforgiveness, roots and all”
and the disciples hit the nail on the head .
"Lord increase our faith"
The 1st thing we need is FAITH
Matthew Henry writes, “faith in God’s pardoning mercy will enable us to get over the greatest difficulties that lie in the way of our forgiving our brother.”
And then Jesus says that the smallest faith can do large things.
I believe his point was actually a positive.
Jesus wasn’t saying you CAN’T, but you CAN!
I think he was telling them “You CAN do this” because 1) faith in Jesus is powerful and 2) you HAVE more faith than you think you do.
So don’t short change the power within you through Christ Jesus.
Why is faith needed?
It is because we must believe that God can right the greatest wrong and can fill the deficit when we forgive and bear the weight of the offense.
Can I ask you something?
Is your God Big Enough to heal the relationship?
“Increase our Faith Lord”
Warren Wiersbe says “Love motivates us to forgive but faith activates that forgiveness, so that God can use it to work blessings in the lives of his people.”