It is Sanctity of Life Sunday. In pulpits all over the place this morning, pastors are addressing the sanctity of Human life. I wish to do the same, but not from precisely the same perspective. I’ve been here long enough that I’ve already spoken on the value of the unborn and our need to protect them. I believe we should continue to support NLPC1 and as much as possible increase our support. Thankfully NLPC does more than provide services to pregnant mothers trying to help them keep their babies, they also provide a series of counseling services for women who have made the wrong decision to abort but who are now plagued with guilt and remorse.
A number of years ago in Chicago, I was walking with another Christian man and at that time he confided in me that years prior he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and subsequently convinced her to have an abortion. I can still remember the look in his eyes as he told me he continued to be haunted by the memory. I spoke to him about God’s forgiveness and embraced him like the beloved brother he was to me.
Had he sinned against me in any way? I don’t think so. But what he was yearning for more than anything else when he finally divulged that hidden part of his life to me was first to know that I wouldn’t cut him off, and second to know that I forgave him. Forgive him is exactly what I did.
On the topic of Abortion according to statistics you all know someone who has been down that road – whether you know it or not. My question for you today is, will you forgive them?
Let’s get beyond that solitary topic to the broader topic of sin. We’ve all got a list of sins that we consider to be “acceptable”, “Unacceptable” and “Downright Unforgivable”. You may be willing to readily forgive someone for lying to you – but what if they privately confessed to you that they struggled with pornography or that they were unfaithful to their spouse?
Please open your Bibles to two passages which we will read together.
(Read 1 Corinthians 5:1-13) After this letter was read in Corinth, they apparently did oust the man and ostracize the man involved. Presumably afterward – he learned his lesson and repented but the Corinthian church itself was uncertain how they should respond and thus they wrote a letter again to the apostle asking him for guidance. His reply comes in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (Read it.)
There isn’t one of us in this room that has not sinned. And so this morning I ask you the question, if in our midst we were to open up and discuss our painful sins of the past will you judge or will you forgive.
This morning let me share with you three reasons why we must forgive others.
Because we’ve been forgiven
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
We are all familiar with the Parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. A slave with a debt equal to 150 years wages2 was brought before his master. The debt was so great he could never pay it yet the master was merciful and forgave that debt. Yet he immediately went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a paltry sum of 100 days wages and threw him into debtors prison. When the master heard, he was so angry with the servant that he turned the first man over to be tortured until he could repay.
The parable itself is plain enough; and Jesus ends the sermon with “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
Listen now: Let us say for a moment that you have been offended, injured, abused or otherwise sinned against in the worst possible way you can imagine; the debt of sin owed to you, while large in your own eyes, is nothing in comparison to the breadth of sin which God has forgiven you.
We must forgive because we have been forgiven.
Because we are told to
Moreover, we must forgiven because we are told to forgive. In Mark 11:25 Jesus tells us, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mar 11:25 NAU)
The word Forgive is called an imperative which means we do not have a choice in the matter. It’s not an issue of feelings or of preference it’s an issue of obedience. And lest you should wonder, forgiving others is part of being a disciple. When Jesus gave the great commission at the end of the gospel of Matthew, part of that mandate is that we teach the new disciples to obey everything that Jesus commanded us. Quite simply that means that forgiveness is your mandate. Obedience to your Lord demands that you forgive.
In the book of Galatians, Paul begins to close the letter with the same mandate:
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:1-2 NAU)
As much as we rely ourselves upon being forgiven by God, we must forgive others when they sin, because we ourselves have been forgiven and because we’ve been commanded to forgive. But there is yet another reason why we must forgive and it’s handed to us near the end of that text in 2 Corinthians. Look at 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 with me were we can see that we must forgive the repentant so that the Devil will not gain an upper hand.
So that the Devil may not gain an upper hand
“But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2Co 2:10-11 NAU)
We could talk for many hours concerning the Devil’s schemes, but I think in this context it is enough to state just two and leave the rest for later.
Concerning the text there are two parties involved. The repentant sinner and the congregation.
First the devil may take advantage of the congregation being unwilling to forgive. If we do not forgive, our own hearts grow hard and embittered. If we do not forgive there is for us the fearful prospect at ourselves not being forgiven (the unmerciful servant). If we do not forgive, than bitterness takes root to divide and arrogance sets in to harden us against sin in our own lives.
2cor 2:7 gives us the explanation of how the Devil may take advantage of a situation in which someone repents of sin and yet is not forgiven by those who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ. “Forgive and comfort [them] otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”
If we do not forgive, the one who needs that forgiveness will waste away in fear with her heart aching – forever separated from those who claim to love them because they believe they cannot be forgiven. And if we teach them they cannot be forgiven by us, than Satan will whisper to them that they cannot be forgiven by God and they will be destroyed under the weight of former sin which God no longer counts against them.
As we are a people who claim to be children of God, it is necessary for us to be like God; including this area of forgiveness. Let me therefore give you a challenge.
Will you stand and declare to this congregation around you that it does not matter what you have done in the past – there is no horror of sin in your life which if you have brought it to Christ – I would dare hold against you.
Will you declare: “What Christ has forgiven in you, I also forgive”? (gain an answer).
For my part, I agree with the apostle. No matter what sin could be confessed, I forgive completely in the presence of Christ, so that Satan will not take advantage of us. (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)