What if I can’t forgive?

Read Luke 17:1-10.

Sometimes, Jesus seems to say things that don’t necessarily connect. I can see why his disciples, without the benefit of the Holy Spirit, struggled. I sit over this passage and, with the Holy Spirit, don’t really want to accept it! But accept I must, because it’s from my Lord.

He starts by talking about sin. I do like this statement:

Things that cause people to sin are bound to come…

Boy, is that ever true. I feel like I’m bombarded sometimes with worldly messages and thoughts that seek to make me stumble and stray from the narrow path called Discipleship.

Then, he adds the zinger:

“…but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

That had to hurt the disciples; it sure does this one. Yet, Jesus also shows how he not only warns but comforts: “So watch yourselves.”

Yes, sir. I knew I had to be on the lookout for sin, but I really need to be on the lookout for my own words or actions that might lead another to sin. I won’t go into the details, but I actually found myself asking that question today. “Are my actions hindering others in their Christian walk?”

Going back to that first comment about things are bound to cause us to sin, Jesus throws in an if statement.

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 

Sin happens. Jesus said it. No one is perfect, even those who have found salvation in Jesus. After they’ve been cleansed of their sin and granted redemption, life goes on. Temptation comes, the flesh raises it’s wicked head and they stumble. I stumble. I sin. So, I need to be understanding of my brothers and sisters who do it too. Yet, Jesus doesn’t say we just ignore it, because we know it happens.

We rebuke. We need to be sharpening one another in the faith. If a brother or sister is in obvious sin, we need to talk to them, draw it to their attention, with love that shows we understand that it happens to us all.

And if they repent, great! Forgive them, just as our Heavenly Father forgives us, as is mentioned in many other places in the Bible.

That sounds easy enough.

  • Expect sin in the lives of believers.
  • Rebuke sin in the lives of believers.
  • If they repent, forgive sin in the lives of believers.

If only it were that easy. Thank you Jesus. I wish I could stop at the first if  statement, but there’s another.

If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.

That’s when I cry out like the apostles did: “Increase our faith!”

Isn’t it enough that he’s asking us to forgive others once, but seven times…and not just seven times, but seven times in a day! Can someone even sin that much against me in one day AND ask forgiveness that many times? I doubt it.

Oh, there’s the word. I wondered why the apostles said to increase their faith. I even used the “D” word.

Then a memory comes to me: it’s about my sons, when they were small. Children can be the best illustrations (along with sheep). How many mothers have rebuked a child for something they did wrong? Do you remember those days when you felt like all you did was get on to your child for misbehaving? And then they look at you and say, “Sorry, Mom.” Did you forgive? Yes, of course you did, because he really was sorry…he was repentant.

Jesus told his disciples it really doesn’t take much faith to do what’s required. It can be faith as small as a mustard seed. That small seed of faith easily disperses the cloud of doubt.

Forgiving is still hard, but it is our duty in Christ. He forgave us, when we didn’t deserve it. We were lost in our sin, happy with the darkness, but he came to provide salvation to those who weren’t even seeking it. He came out of obedience to God, who SO loved the world.

That’s when this last passage makes sense to me. I’m his servant. Forgiving over and over and over again is my duty to the one who showed me how. I deserve no praise for being a forgiving person; it should be, not second, but first-nature to me, because he’s replaced the old nature, that prefers to rebuke and hold grudges, with the new nature, that rebukes and then forgives.

Because he first forgave me.

Things that cause people to sin are bound to come. I’m working to forgive.

What about you?

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