Do you find it easy to say “I am sorry” to someone you’ve hurt? These three powerful words enable us to have smooth relationships with others. “Always apologise more than you think you need to” is advice worth practising as long as you live.
Expressing regret for hurting someone or sinning against them is the first step to healing a damaged relationship with others. The reason many relationships aren’t as good and loving as they could be is because we’ve failed to apologise when we’ve hurt and offended someone. Jesus points out to us in today’s text that love can involve having to apologise seven times in one day, if that’s what’s necessary for domestic harmony or harmony within a church community. This will also involve free and unconditional forgiveness of each other seven times or more in one day if necessary.
Our problem is that we’re quick to excuse ourselves, and we find it easier to criticize the other person rather than forgive them. Love is thrilled to say “sorry” to those whom we’ve hurt. Where there are no apologies, anger grows and creates in us a desire to hit back.
Jesus’ call to forgive a sister or brother seven times a day if necessary made His disciples only too aware of their inadequate faith. That’s why they pray to Jesus, “Increase our faith”. They’re only too aware that they need the help only our Saviour can give them. By asking Jesus to increase our faith regularly, we are praying that our Lord will enable us to do things for Him that seem to be humanly impossible. He means we should use the faith God has already given us to ask Him for a more effective, life-transforming faith. Faith that grows like a mustard seed is faith that’s said its prayers.
Jesus links faith, prayer and forgiveness inseparably together when He says, “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses’ (Mark11:24-25).”
No other act in the universe is as glorious and beautiful as God’s forgiveness of us. No other antidote brings such complete healing and peace as does forgiveness. Nothing in our sinful world bears the imprint of Christ, the Son of God, as surely as does forgiveness.
God forgives you like a mother forgives her child when she kisses the offence into eternal forgetfulness. His forgiveness of you is stronger than all your sins. Forgiveness is His barrier-breaking, future-opening gift to you.
Forgiveness meets our longing to make a fresh start in our relationships with God and each other. God’s forgiveness of you means you can live as His new creation, as if your life has just begun. Forgiveness is God’s most characteristic quality as our heavenly Father. He pleads with each one of us to be forgiven and forget; forget all the past sins of which God has already forgiven you and all the sins other people have committed against you.
The Bible tells us that ultimately all sin is against God and must be confessed to Him. King David confesses to God: “Against You, You alone, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and blameless when You pass judgement (Psalm 51:4).” Because Jesus has taken the blame for all our sins in place of us, God no longer condemns those who plead for His forgiveness. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).”
We show appreciation of God’s undeserved forgiveness of us by our eagerness to forgive one another.
A young man had a sharp disagreement with another church member. As he’d been a Christian for a longer time than the other person, his pastor asked him to initiate the process of reconciliation. The youth said to his pastor: “He is the one who started all this. I have done nothing wrong. Why should I go to him? He should be the one to make the first move, not me.” Forgiveness involves making the first move. To be a Christian involves forgiving what I think is unforgiveable. We are most like God when we forgive others.
If you cannot forgive others, you break the bridge over which you must pass; for everyone needs to be forgiven. Every Christian needs to be a good forgiver. Nothing stops prayer more than an unforgiving spirit.
To forgive someone is to slice away the wrong from the offender and see her or him in a new light. By living as God’s forgiven and forgiving people, you can make a tremendous difference at home, at work, at sport and at church.
The servant in today’s Gospel reading couldn’t expect any special treatment for simply doing his daily duty. Servants employed in the time of Jesus were grateful for the security of a job and worked for their masters out of a sense of loyalty. In ordinary life in the time of the New Testament, a master never waited on or served a servant.
As our Master, Jesus, however, did something unique and unheard of before. He came not to be served, but to serve us in amazingly wonderful, down to earth ways. In Holy Communion, Jesus serves us with sacred food in this sacred meal so that we can serve others in all sorts of down to earth ways, like He serves us. Love knows its duty is never done. Love’s only reward is to have the privilege of serving others.
Serving our Saviour Jesus makes our lives full of meaning, because what we do for Him is eternally worthwhile with results seen only in heaven. We serve Jesus, and look forward to that day when in heaven Jesus will come and serve us. “It will be good for those servants whose Master finds them watching when He comes … He will dress Himself to serve, He will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them (Luke 12:37).” What a wonderful honour that will be!