“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, “I repent,” you must forgive him.’” (Luke 17:1-4 NET)
Forgiving others. So difficult at times, yet so necessary. We know it is important because of the number of times Jesus spoke about it and told stories that illustrated it.
Have we been in a situation where someone sins against us, we talk to them about it, and they ask for our forgiveness, acknowledging their wrong doing and state that they will do better? We forgive and largely forget about it. But what Jesus is asking of those who would follow him is more than this.
What if this same person did it again? And after you spoke to them they again acknowledged it, asked your forgiveness, and stated they wouldn’t do it again. Although more difficult, most people would still forgive.
But what if, on the same day, it happened again and again and again? Would our patience start wearing thin? Would we start to question whether the person was sincere? Would we struggle to forgive?
Notice what Jesus said: “Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Not you should think about it or you might forgive, but you must forgive him.
No wonder the apostles reacted as they did! They said to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). They seemed to think that this was something hard or even impossible to do.
Jesus replied that it wasn’t matter of the quantity of their faith, but the quality of it. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this black mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled out by the roots and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6).
Why would Jesus ask us to forgive in this way? Isn’t this stretching our faith and our patience a little too much?
But isn’t this what we so often do with God? We sin. We go to God and ask for forgiveness. God delights in forgiving his children. “But you are a God of forgiveness, merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and unfailing in your loyal love” (Nehemiah 9:17).
But then we do it again. We again ask forgiveness. And we do it again and again and again. Yet we trust that God is truly a forgiving God. Although we struggle at times to break the power of sin we can rely on God to forgive.
This is what Jesus is asking of us. To forgive and keep on forgiving. Just like we receive from God.
Living as a Christian requires a changed life. Changing from being characterised by sin to living in Jesus. Changed in the way we react when others do something against us.
“You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk – indeed all malice. Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
May we truly learn to imitate God as dearly loved children (Ephesians 5:1) and live in love, just as Jesus has loved us (Ephesians 5:2).
Readings for next week:
25 March – Luke 15
26 March – Luke 16
27 March – Luke 17
28 March – Luke 18
29 March – Luke 19