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Deeper Wider: Forgiveness

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Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his "Deeper Wider" series, choosing a passage to preach about from the section we were reading this week as a church, Matthew 18:21-35.

Before the sermon, during the 11:00 service, Kevin got up front and told how God healed his sister Cheri from leukemia, using a stem cell transplant from Kevin.  Our church and Cheri's church were praying for her -- and her body today is cancer-free, and her blood type has changed to match Kevin's.  So their family has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Then we read Matthew 18:21-35.

Forgiveness Is a Really Big Deal!

He read several studies, and first off, forgiveness is good for many different aspects of our health. 

We know it's a big deal -- even when we don't always do it.

Ephesians 4:32 -- Forgiveness is a big deal to God.

When we truly understand how much we've been forgiven by God (the size of the debt we owe) and the cost of that forgiveness to God himself, then we are compelled to freely forgive other people, even at great cost to ourselves.

In the story, the first servant owes somewhere around a billion dollars, and the other servant around ten thousand dollars.  The difference is huge.

This story brings up four questions:

1)  Why is the king able to forgive, but not the servant?  What's the difference?

It's not the size of the offence.  One was astronomically bigger -- but that was the one forgiven.  We're lying when we use the excuse, "But you don't know what he did!"

It's not a difference in the nature of the relationship.  They had the same subordinate relationship and made their appeals with the same words.

The difference has to do with the heart of the one offended.

2)  What is it about the king that enabled him to be forgiving?

The word for "Be patient with me!" is literally "long-suffering."  An offence creates emotional pain.

We have three options:  We can suffer passively and become a victim.  We can make the other person suffer (which also makes us a victim -- our life gets stolen by the offence).  Or we can actively take the suffering ourselves.

3)  Why don't we forgive?

Forgiveness is a process.

Forgiveness is hard work.

Why do we cling so tightly to being right (even when it increases our own suffering)?  Maybe we haven't truly understood just how much we've been forgiven.

When Peter asked if he should forgive "up to seven times," he must have thought he was being super generous.  There was a standard rabbinical answer for how many times you should forgive someone -- and it was three times.

Peter was looking for the limits.  This is how we manage our bad habits -- with limits and numbers.

When Jesus answered seventy-seven times, he was saying to forgive for infinity and beyond.

This requires a new understanding.

4)  What is forgiveness?

We have a glimpse in verse 27.  The master had pity on him, released him, and forgave his debt.

Pity -- It's related to the word for guts.  Being moved deep within ourselves.  He put himself in the place of the servant.

When offended, we highlight the difference between us and the offender.  We create a caricature of their character.  They become the offence.

Released him -- let him go.  When we can't forgive, we end up clinging to what happened.  As the saying goes, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.

Forgave the debt -- He's free from the burden.  In fact, both are free from the burden.

Hebrews 12:15 -- Don't let a bitter root grow up.

And this was a perfect preparation to end our service with the Mercy Meal of Communion.

Deeper Wider: The Main Thing

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Gateway Community Church has, since October, been reading the New Testament together.  This morning Pastor Ed Allen again brought a message from this week's reading, specifically Matthew 15:1-20

First we talked about traditions.  Much of what we believe and how we worship is based on our traditions.  This isn't a bad thing unless it's a bad thing.

Jesus encourages us to let our relationship with God provide the framework instead of our traditions.

1.  Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.

The Pharisees made a big deal out of something that's not a big deal -- and that's a big deal.

They'd assess their behavior and the behavior of others on the basis of their traditions and evaluate their relationship with God.

This was a big deal to the Pharisees.

Jesus said, "Leave them alone!"  Dismiss it!  Don't have anything to do with it!

They took a small thing -- how people washed their hands -- and made it a big thing.

For them, the collected teachings of the rabbis formed the framework for how someone's connection to God was evaluated.

Sometimes their traditions got in the way of following God.  "They worship me in vain."

2.  Keep Your Spirituality Right Side Out.

According to Jesus, a real relationship with God is always inside out.

Jesus does not give a list of regulations.

We might think we're past this, but think about the unwritten rules for being a good parent in suburban America.  It's based on Performance and Success.

Our words and actions come out of our heart -- our true inner selves.

True spirituality emanates from a good and true heart.

Where does a good and true heart come from?

John 3 -- God needs to completely re-orient the inside of your life, like being completely born again.

It's not about more effort, but more surrender.

We need to be made new inside.

As Christians, don't let the world around us drive us to the exterior of our lives.

Don't evaluate others based on exteriors, either.


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