Listen to this week's Sermon below
"Forgiveness and Judging Others"
September 13th, 2020
(Rev Canon Malcolm Convery)
(Readings from Romans 14:1-12 and Matthew 18:21-35)
Click to read HERE
In recent days most of our focus has been on church buildings.
We've had a full report on church buildings in the diocese.
We’ve done a summary of them and some visitors have been to two meetings
and several comments have been gathered together.
Although it’s an important issue, we must not lose sight of the fact
that the church is the people, people who believe and follow Jesus Christ,
a people called to engage with God in mission.
We are the church, you and I together and today's Bible readings are about people.
Firstly the Christians in Rome, in our epistle and secondly, the disciples in our gospel reading.
Prior to today's gospel passage is in account of a member of the church who sins
and this leads on to a question that Peter asks Jesus, he asks
'Lord, if my brother keep sinning against me how many times do I have to forgive him?
One of the hardest things in life is to be able to forgive, especially when we've been deeply hurt
and the hardest person to forgive is often ourselves.
Forgiveness lies at the very heart of the Christian faith.
We regularly pray in the Lord's prayer
‘Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’.
Prior to the birth of Jesus, Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied that John would go ahead of the Lord and tell the people that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven.
And the good news is... our sins are forgiven and we receive eternal life,
that is we are saved from sin and death.
We don't deserve it, our lives don't merit it,
but such is God's grace, which is a measure of His love.
And then we remember the words of Jesus spoken from the cross.
He hangs there, humiliated, in great pain, dying the death of a criminal and yet innocent.
Yet He’s able to cry out
‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do’
Such an outpouring of love!
Would we be able to forgive in such circumstances?
This takes us back to Peter's question
‘Lord if my brother keeps sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him?’
and he adds, ‘seven times?’.. thinking he will impress Jesus!
And how does Jesus respond?
‘No, not seven times Peter but seventy times seven!’
Jesus is not saying you have to forgive four hundred and ninety times, He is saying –
You don't count how many times you forgive.... but you go on forgiving.
This is how members of God's Kingdom should respond.
Jesus then goes on to illustrate His teaching with a parable.
It is a story in which Jesus exaggerates the situation and contrasts the actions of the leading characters in order to get his message across.
It's the story of a servant who owes the king millions of pounds.
The king calls his servants to pay their debts and this man arrives,
but there's no way he can pay his debt,
so the king orders him to be sold as a slave with his wife and children and all he had.
The man falls to his knees and begs
‘Be patient with me! I will repay you everything!’
The king had pity on him and forgave him the whole debt.
Think what it must have felt like – to be relieved of such a burden.
But the man showed no sign of being relieved or delighted or grateful.
Instead he rushes out and grabs one of his fellow servants by the throat
and demands he pays him back the few pounds he owes him.
The fellow servant falls to his knees and pleaded for mercy,
but he wasn't shown any mercy.
He was thrown into jail until he paid the debt.
What a contrast in how the two servants were treated.
The story doesn't end here.
The king gets to hear about how the fellow servant was treated.
He calls the unforgiving servant back and said to him
‘You worthless slave!
I forgave you the whole amount you owed just because you asked me to.
You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I have mercy on you!’
and Jesus ends His teaching with a warning,
This is how my Father in heaven will treat everyone of you,
unless you forgive your brother from your heart.’
Jesus' message is clear.
We’re called to forgive others, as we have been forgiven.
This is easier said than done.
I'm sure that we've all experienced situations where we’ve been deeply hurt
and found it difficult to forgive.
Is it possible to forgive some one who murdered one of our children?
Do people forgive the bomber in the Manchester arena tragedy?
You may remember several years ago in 2006, a gunman burst into a classroom of a small rural school in America and shot ten children dead.
This happened among the Amish community,,,,
people who are devoted Christians and live a simple life following in the footsteps of Jesus.
That day in 2006, their community was devastated.
How did they respond?
They didn't show any hatred towards the killer, they didn't cast blame or point a finger,
they didn't seek revenge.... in fact, just the opposite!
They reached out to the killer's family with grace and compassion.
On the afternoon of the shooting,
one of the grandfathers of the children expressed forgiveness towards the killer.
Some neighbours visited the killer's family
and later in the week the killer's family were invited to the funeral of one of the girls.
It turned out the killer had never forgiven God for the death of his own daughter nine years before.
Could we forgive in such circumstances?
With God's help we could.
With His love in our hearts we can.
Forgiveness is very much part and parcel of life in God's Kingdom.
We receive forgiveness that we might forgive others.
Forgiveness leads to healing and reconciliation.
To not forgive burns into our soul, separates us from God and from other people.
As Christians, we’ve experienced God's forgiveness
and we need to go on receiving His forgiveness,
as we fall short of his standards every day.
Turning to God... and saying sorry is not a one off, but a daily necessity.
So our gospel reading teaches us about the importance of forgiveness.
Then we have our reading from the book of Romans, which has something to say about judgement. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans
‘Stop judging one another!’
I’m sure we’re all guilty of doing so.
It's easy to expect people to fall into line with what we think and do
and sometimes we judge others because it makes us feel better about ourselves.
In his epistle, Paul is addressing the Christians in Rome.
Many are Jews who become Christians and the others are gentile converts.
They become one in Christ,
but there are areas where they differ and Paul begins our passage by writing
‘Welcome the person who is weak in faith,
but do not argue with him about his personal opinions.
Those weak in faith then, were those adhering to their Jewish roots,
such as the Jewish regulations on food, the rules concerning the Sabbath Day
and the keeping of the ten commandments.
Rules and regulations were still at the forefront of their lives
and Paul is urging the Christians who’ve experienced
the freedom of coming to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour,
to respect the views of these people and welcome them into the fellowship,
help them to grow in the knowledge and experience of Jesus and
lead them to discover that it’s not rules and regulations
that brings us into a relationship with God.
It is not something we achieve on merit,
but God's free gift received through faith in Jesus.
There are issues which we do not agree upon in our churches today.....
from abortion, to homosexuality, to divorce, to name just a few.
There are also differences of opinion as to what the Church should be used for.
Is it right to have concerts, meals and fundraising events in Church?
Rather than judging each other, we are called to work together, accept our differences,
be concerned for each other, respect each other’s views and help each other to grow in our faith, showing the community that we love each other with a love that extends beyond the Church.
So the important lessons we learn today are:
Forgive one another, as the Lord has forgiven us
and remember that forgiveness lies at the very heart of the Christian faith.
It’s good to remember that we’re all forgiven sinners who continue to sin and need forgiveness. Fortunately our Father in Heaven is merciful, as was the king in the parable.
The other lesson we learn is not to judge others.
God is our judge, as Paul reminds us when he writes
'Every one of us will have to give an account of himself to God. '
We’ll be judged on what we believe and how we have lived our lives
and God will be the judge of this.
If we have believed and followed in the footsteps of Jesus we have nothing to fear.
God waits to welcome us into His eternal Kingdom.
Thank God for His mercy and Grace