Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Matt 18:21-35 - Grace to Forgive


Passage: Matt 18:21-35
Originally Preached: 13/05/07 - 10am Service - St Stephen's Anglican, Belrose
Series: Grace

Description: We must forgive because we've been forgiven.

Comment: I was excited when I got this topic because it's one of those ones that appeal to me. I like the practical, counter intuitive teachings of the Bible. Like loving your enemies and greatness through downward mobility. So when I got "Grace to Forgive" I thought "Yes!".

But then, when I started thinking about it, I realised that forgiveness isn't really something I know a lot about. My problem is that I rarely get upset with people, and I rarely find it hard to forgive people who hurt me. I have very few significant stories of having to work hard at forgiveness. It's not because I'm a saint, I think it's because I'm a pushover. That and people are generally pretty nice to me. But still I am in awe of forgiveness. I want to know more about my forgiveness. I think my lack of understanding of forgiving others means that I have less of an understanding of God's forgiveness of me. If others don't grieve me much, I don't feel like I grieve God much. Though, I do know that to be a lie. So I'm working on that. I hope all that didn't stunt my teaching though. Hopefully I've grasped enough to be able to teach on it. Or at least I've got a good enough grasp of the Bible to teach what the Bible says. Because it's the Bible really that has to have the kicker, not me.

I didn't get much time to prepare this message. So I spent a lot of time praying before hand. I said "God I am unable to give this the time it needs, you're going to have to help me."

I find that when I get stuck on a sermon the night before, and I'm always writing the night before, I can usually come downstairs and have a conversation with someone in my house who will help me. I spoke to my sister Jo over dinner about forgiveness and she was good. We talked for ages about the value of forgiveness if you don't have to forgive people who are unrepentant. Because at that stage I still thought you didn't have to forgive people who aren't sorry. Though I changed my mind on that, even if it isn't what John Stott thinks.

She also gave me my closing illustration about Tomas Borge, which was the corker illustration of the sermon in my view. I was most impressed with the man. Unfortunately I'm not very good at pronouncing Nicaragua.

The big question for me was "Do you need to forgive people who are unrepentant?" Because of Luke 17:3-4 I was of the belief that you don't need to forgive people who don't say sorry. I thought you should be at the point where you could forgive if they asked, but not actually forgiving. But I wasn't exactly comfortable with the view, it's just what I thought Jesus was saying. But at about 11pm on Saturday night I did a bit of reading about the subject and the internet seems to firmly believe that you do need to forgive the unrepentant people who hurt you. Luke 17:3-4 seems to be more about unlimited forgiveness rather than the conditions for forgiveness. And that view seems to fit much better with all the other teachings of the New Testament on forgiveness.

If I had to pick a quotable quote from the sermon which was fun to preach it would have been: "Just as sin has consequences, forgiveness has consequences, and those consequences have to be love." People can put that in a book with my name next to it. Or not.

People seemed to like this sermon. I had one person say they thought it was "Vintage Tom" which was a good thing. I'm not sure if that means they haven't liked my recent ones, if they think I've been slipping, or what. But I'll take it as a compliment and just keep praying that God will keep helping me preach.

If you want a text of the message you can get it here.


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