Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount

A few months back we left the Sermon on the Mount after discussing the Lord’s Prayer. This is not part of the prayer, but it is an explanation of part of that model prayer. Matthew Henry points out that there is nothing new in the Lord’s Prayer. Everything in the Lord’s Prayer was already being circulated and taught in Jesus’ day by other Rabbis with the exception of one thing, “as we forgive those who sin against us”. And immediately after this prayer Jesus further explains this text. That is what we are going to look at in Matthew 6:14.

Forgiven people forgive and are forgiven.

When I was growing up it seemed as if there were always some sort of family fights and family dissention within our extended family. These things would go on for years, there are even parts of the family that still don’t speak with each other. As I think about life and the lives of people today I don’t think it will be much different than that. Unforgiveness is probably all around you. In fact, an act of forgiveness could seem almost foreign to you at this point in your life. It has been recognized that in today’s day and age forgiveness can be almost nowhere to be found. But it is not so for God’s people. The Sermon on the Mount reveals a different ethic for the people of God. We behave differently than the world. The rules for us are much higher.

God’s people are a forgiving people. Forgiven people forgive and are forgiven.

I want to say in the beginning of this that the message will be a bit different than normal. Usually I explain the text and then give application, but the statement is straightforward. There isn’t a lot to get confused about because it is itself an explanation of part of the Lord’s Prayer. The Church is to be incredibly different from the world, which is a place of harsh unforgiveness.

We Are Unforgiving And Hateful People By Nature and Surrounded by Unforgiving and Hateful People (Titus 3:3, Matthew 6:14-15)

You may or may not have noticed something interesting that has happened with our culture, but since we don’t forgive people anymore people don’t admit fault. This is becoming increasingly evident in American politics where an admission of guilt is seen as the end of your career. So the playbook there is deny, deny, deny, deny…even when it is obvious that you are lying. This was seen from both candidates in the 2016 election and will likely be a part of the 2020 campaign. Since people don’t forgive an admission of guilt and an apology is shown to political suicide. This attitude seems to be at play among everyone else as well. The reason for this is simple. We are, by nature, curved in ourselves and incredibly selfish.

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”-Titus 3:3 ESV

Over and over we find in the Scriptures that people are sinful and rebellious people. We reject God and His Word because of our sin nature and act as Paul states here “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another”. This is a description of us before Christ, “hated by others and hating one another”. This is not conducive to an atmosphere of forgiveness.

This is our character by nature. We are unforgiving and hateful people by nature. When we feel wronged we struggle to forgive. In our actions we are selfish, seeking our own pleasure and satisfaction. It’s hard to forgive others when we are busy being hated and hating one another.

Some people would like to think that this is not true. However, it is easily provable by experience. Turn on your television and watch how badly people talk about those with whom they disagree. Watch the news and see what people do to one another. See how different groups kill each other. Observe how some people discuss murdering other human beings on internet chatrooms and then go and carry that out. Watch how easily a family fights and is torn apart or how quickly family members will do something to hurt another member of the family either physically or emotionally. This is easily observable. We see it every day. And in the midst of this Jesus says,

“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.”-Matthew 6:14-15 ESV

In a world that is made up of people who are busy hating other people Jesus calls Christians to be forgiving people. The ethic of God’s Kingdom is different than the ethic of the Kingdom of this world.

Christians Have Been Forgiven Much (Titus 3:4-6, Matthew 18: 21-35, Matthew 6:14-15)

The Kingdom of this World is filled with unforgiveness and hatred. This is the Kingdom that we were part of completely, but now we are part of God’s Kingdom. We have been brought out of that and forgiven for our incredible trespasses.

Sin is a heinous and wicked evil. I was reading 1 Samuel 15 in which Samuel tells Saul that disobedience is as bad as witchcraft and that stubbornness and desire to not do God’s will was as bad as idolatry. That is saying a lot. Sin is a heinous evil. No matter how much we justify it to ourselves sin is a heinous evil in the sight of God and we are people who have been forgiven much.

In Paul’s letter to Titus he continues the thought begun above. After stating how wicked we are, Paul discusses how great a salvation we now partake. He says

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-6 ESV)

Though we were “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3 ESV) God saved us. We are now declared righteous by the perfect work of Christ and made new, regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit. We have gone from these rebellious people to being those who desire to follow Christ and it is not because of what we have done it is because of what God has done both outside of us, by the finished work of Christ, and in us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

We have been taken out of the Kingdom of this world, though we are still residents and made part of the Kingdom of Christ. Entrance into this kingdom required the sacrifice of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. God has forgiven us much and given us much. Should we not be forgiving to those around us?

Jesus tells a parable about this that we should read here. I think it serves as a commentary for what Jesus means by this text. A servant is forgiven much then he refuses to forgive others and because of this the man ends up having to pay his debts. Isn’t this what the text is discussing? God has forgiven us much, therefore we should forgive others.

Think about this throughout your day. When you are wronged think to yourself, “I sinned against God and He forgave me through the death of His own Son. Shouldn’t I forgive this wrong?”

Forgiven People Forgive Others

Here we are back at the beginning and thinking about this text. Forgiven people forgive others. I think it is important here to discuss what forgiveness is and what it is not. Forgiveness is the releasing of a debt that someone owes you because of something that they did to you or took from you.

When someone wrongs you then they owe you something. If they steal your phone then they owe you the watch or the equivalent of that phone and an apology. If they punch you in the face then they owe you whatever bills were incurred because of doctor’s visits and an apology. If they spoke lies about you to their friends then they owe you an apology and a statement of what is true given to their friends and undoing whatever damage was done because of the lie.

Here is where all of this gets a little tricky. All damage cannot be undone. You can pay someone back for something stolen but you can’t always fix a ruined reputation. And oftentimes people simply do not have the ability to give back what has been taken. They come to you and say, “I’m sorry for….” You have a decision right there. Do I forgive them? Do I not forgive them? To forgive them would mean cancelling the debt that they owe you. It would mean that they don’t owe you anything anymore and you would stop being angry at them for the offense.

What we find here is that forgiven people forgive others. We understand that we have been forgiven much, as God’s people. We had a record of debt that stood against us and God forgave it. We rebelled against God and He forgave it. Will we be people who forgive others?

This brings up an entire slew of questions concerning forgiveness. Do I forgive someone who is not repentant? Do I forgive someone who I’ll never see again? Do I forgive someone who says they are sorry but obviously they don’t mean it?

These are questions that need to be worked out in our lives, but the important thing to see here is that forgiven people forgive others. They don’t hold the grudge they forgive people.