Jump Start # 3083
Luke 17:4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Most Bible readers are familiar with the conversation that our Lord had with Peter concerning forgiveness that is found in Matthew. In that account, Peter asks how often one should forgive a person. He suggested, “Up to seven times?” Jesus responded with “seventy times seven.”
Here in Luke’s account, Peter’s conversation is not recorded. Here, Jesus does not say “seventy times seven.” Instead, Jesus presents a picture of someone sinning against us seven times in one day. That’s hard to imagine. About the fourth time, most of us would say, “Stay home. I don’t want to see you anymore today.” After each sin, the person says, “I repent.” Jesus says we are to forgive. He doesn’t say, “Not again.” Nor, “when will you stop doing wrong?” None of those things. Just forgive.
Nothing is more Christ-like than forgiveness. One can be generous and a heathen. One can be kind and not godly. But to forgive, is to take on the nature of Christ. Forgiveness stands upon the shoulders of grace and love. To forgive is to give someone a second chance.
Although nothing is more Christ-like than forgiveness, nothing is harder than forgiveness. To extend forgiveness doesn’t seem fair nor right. Something ought to be done to make things right. But that is not the nature of forgiveness. And, it seems that many of us struggle with this. Here is a young man who goes forward at the invitation on a Wednesday evening. Immediately the speculations and whispers begin. “What is it this time,” some think. “Not again,” some say. Yet our passage has someone sinning and repenting seven times, not in a month, not in a year, but in a DAY. ONE DAY.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind about forgiveness:
First, we must forgive quickly. That’s the idea in Ephesians about not letting the sun go down on your anger. The more we stew about how we have been hurt, the more we want revenge rather than forgiveness. It seems from our verse today, that the seven sins were forgiven as they were repented of. What a long day that must have been. Seven Sins. Seven Apologies. Seven Forgiveness offered. All in the same day! Now, how different this story would have been, had the person came to repent of sin number two, but the victim had forgiven sin number one. Things sure could get messy and foggy.
Second, we must forgive completely. There really isn’t such a thing as “partial forgiveness.” It’s like a woman who says that she is kinda pregnant. There is no such thing. Either you are or you are not. To say you forgive, yet you are expecting something more, is not to forgive. The parable of the man who owed ten thousand talents, reveals that the master forgave him and released him of the debt. He owned nothing. To owe nothing means, you owe nothing. When we say, you at least have to make things right, then we haven’t forgiven. To release means the debt is gone.
Third, we must forgive repeatedly. That’s straight from our passage today. Seven times in one day. Over and over and over and over. Parents must do that with their children. Spouses must do that. We bump and hurt each other and we can do that often. Now, in our passage, the sinner was repentant. He came seven times and repented. His heart recognized the wrong that he had done. He sought to make things right.
Fourth, forgiveness is always a choice. No one can make you forgive. Even though God expects us to forgive, it still is within our hands to do what we want. There are some things that are easy to forgive. There are things that push us to the limits of all that we are to forgive. Gossip and child abuse are both sins. One is easier to forgive than the other. Telling a lie and committing adultery—both are sins, one is easier to forgive than the other. Ephesians four paints the picture in vivid colors of what happens when we do not forgive. There in verse 31 we find, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. They are more than linked together, they are escalating in intensity. It begins with a bitter heart and that leads through all those other words towards malice, which is evil intentions and based upon a heart that hates. Refusing to forgive, hurts the victim more than the sinner. It ruins our soul and it kills any good in our character. Forgiveness is a choice.
Fifth, we are to forgive as God has forgiven us. Ephesians 4:32 says, “forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Forgive just as God forgives. How many times has God forgiven you? Seven times? Seven times in one day? Has God ever thought, “Not again.” Has God ever said, “I’m tired of forgiving you?” Has God ever expressed, “You sin too much.” Forgive as we have been forgiven. Nearly all of our prayers ask the Lord for forgiveness. When a person says, “I just cannot forgive,” they need to think long and hard about that. Jesus said, “If you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Our forgiveness horizontally, towards one another, impacts our vertical forgiveness from Heaven.
Seven times in a day…could you do that? Will you do that?