Jump Start # 2606
Luke 17:4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Last Sunday I preached about the word “again.” John’s Gospel says that Jesus manifested Himself “again.” The word ‘again’ means at least a second time. It is to repeat. When a child complains at the supper table, “are we having that again?” that means you’d had it before, likely even just a day or two ago.
Although our verse does not use the word “again,” it is certainly found there in principle. Here is someone who sins against you. Not just once, but again and again. Seven times in one day. He apologies but we wonder with all the times he keeps doing it over and over. This would definitely wear on our patience. After about three times, I think I’d tell the guy to go home and I don’t want to see you any more today. But, he’s past three times. He’s past five times. He’s up to seven times. Boy, that seems like a long day. It’s a long day for the guy who keeps sinning against you. Something just isn’t right. It’s a long day for you, because he continues to hurt you, again and again.
Now some lessons.
First, longsuffering means simply that, to suffer long. That’s hard for many of us. We are short on the long part of things. And, when we put a face to this person, the long gets even shorter. That sibling or grown child who continues to abuse self with alcohol and drugs and expects you to come to their rescue. It gets old after a while. That brother in Christ who continues to hurt you by shooting off his mouth. He’s at it again. The “again” part is what is so hard. Have they not learned any lessons? Why do they continue to make the same mistakes over and over? Fair questions to ask. No one really knows the answers.
Second, God has been patient with us. We tend to forget that. Our attitudes on some days are not very good. The choice of words, our anger, our level of being bothered can be not where they ought to be. God is forgiving. This is the reason we forgive. This is the reason we continue to forgive. God has and God does. Thankfully, God never grows weary of us.
Third, the person who is sinning so much in one day understands and is sorry. He has a heart. He recognizes the wrong that he has done. He tells you that he repents and seeks your forgiveness. This is not the person who is indifferent or could careless about how you feel. This is not the person who is going to remain in wrong. No, the person in Jesus’ illustration wants to do right. He wants to leave the land of wrong. He wants a relationship with you. He obviously is very weak. He is struggling. In many ways, this man’s heart is willing but his flesh is weak. He’s trying, but he’s slipping and sliding as he tries. His good heart allows us to be patient and forgiving with him.
Fourth, we can help this man by giving him some instructions, some tips and advice that may keep him from sinning so much. Maybe he’s never been told what to do. Maybe he can’t cut the ties to the world. You can help him. Rather than blasting him with both barrels because he keeps sinning, give the guy a hand. Help him up. Help him to get over the wrongs that he is doing. With the forgiveness comes a teaching moment. This is often not done. The man apologizes, we forgive, but the cycle continues. Rather than getting frustrated and upset, try showing him a better way. This will take some time, but the benefits are enormous. It may keep him from sinning so much and it will keep you from becoming so frustrated with him.
Finally, the cycle of sin can be hard to break. Sin is addictive and some sins find their ways back into our hearts over and over again. Seven times in a day—that’s a lot. Is it much better than seven times in a week? Or, seven times in a month? Sin is a choice. It’s a poor choice. It’s a choice made without looking at consequences. It’s a choice that is easy to make. Resisting the devil is hard. But it can be done. With every temptation, comes a door of escape. God provides that escape. Look for it. It’s there. And, once you are off that merry-go-round of sin, it is very easy to get right back on it again. Satan knows your weak spots. He’ll attack you there.
Sin can be forgiven. It can be forgiven by God and it can be forgiven by us. When someone declares, “I cannot forgive that person,” they could. They are choosing not to. They are choosing to hold on to the pain and the darkness. When we do not forgive, bitterness takes over our heart. Dark thoughts, unpleasant words, and a mean spirit changes us. It’s a choice. You don’t have to be that way. Let it go. Even if the person sins seven times in a day against you, let it go. Forgiveness is always the right choice. Forgiveness is always the best choice. Forgiveness stands upon the shoulders of love and grace. Without those two, there can be no forgiveness.
Seven times in a day…