Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13
Today we are going to wrap up our series called Going All the Way. It’s been a refreshing look at what love looks like done God’s way. It’s been a great look at what is required to have a relationship that goes the distance. We talked about how Jesus needs to be the one in your relationship. He needs to be the priority. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33. Then we had a powerful conversation with Tom and Mary on what that looks like in real life.
Last week we talked about focusing on the two, each other. We talked about having a better standard for our marriages. We talked about having a better standard with our personal character, on what we do, and on what we expect from God in our relationships. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Ephesians 3:20
Today, today, I want to show you how that scripture can come to life in your marriage or elite relationship. How your marriage can be immeasurably more. If you are a Christ follower you will recognize this right away. It’s counter intuitive but it’s what is required in a lifelong relationship. Let me tell you why you will resist what I’m going to be sharing today.
The problem with relationships is we have rules. At your job you have rules about how you are to relate to each other. There are policies on sexual harassment, how you treat co-workers, your boss, or treat customers. IN many restaurants I visit I will see a reminder on the cash register to whoever is working a little note saying something like, smile, make eye contact, repeat order, say “It’s my pleasure.” Rules.
When you go to school you learn about all kinds of rules when it comes to relating each other. Lisa, my wife, works with 3 and 4 year olds every day. When the school year begins many of them have never been in a group setting and they don’t know the rules. So many times they will bite each other or hit each other not realizing there are rules for them to follow besides getting their own way. They have to learn the rules. When you go to a movie theater you are told not to use your cell phone. Your family has rules too. Some family rules are very different from others. You need rules to get along in any culture.
All our relationships have rules, including marriage. Often times the rules you learn for marriage are different from your spouse. One big rule is adultery right- as in do not commit adultery. If you are a married you are devoted to one person. Everyone else is off your radar. Then you can have unwritten rules in your relationship that are unique to you. It could be rules like a certain lifestyle, to be treated a certain way, how clean the house should be, retirement living, how the money is spent, and host of other rules, which you put in the toilet paper, little too big.
The problem with rules is we as humans, at some point, will fail to uphold them. At some point your husband, your wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, will fail to live up to those expectations in a significant way. You will not get the affection, the respect, the feeling of security, the feeling of support. What are you going to do when the expectations you have are not met and you are hurt in a significant way? What will you do?
- Will you hold it over them? Will you use it as your ace in all arguments?
- Will you be passive aggressive- kinda in the relationship but not totally?
- Will you get them to pay it back somehow? Will you use their guilt to your advantage- to gain power in the relationship?
- Will you settle for a loveless marriage because you base your love on hurt or the disrespect you feel?
Unfortunately, we have the ability to forget that marriage is about the relationship with the person you are with. You are not married to marriage. You are married to the one you are with. Your job is to love your husband, your wife. Many times, our default when we are hurt or when they fail us is to default to the rules. We want to save the marriage. Sometimes we say we are going to do it different this time which means you just adjusted the rules. We think he should have done that… She should have been there… You forgot one too many times… The problem with rules is it makes us proud. They can make us feel more powerful in the relationship. Rules just create more loopholes. They create fierce arguments and build walls.
Jesus, to the best of his ability, wants to give you a different and more healthy direction in your relationship with your special someone. It was never God’s intent for your marriage to be filled with rules and unmet expectations. So how can you get out of this loop? How can you have a marriage without rules?
Honestly, you cannot. There are boundaries in any relationship. What it requires is admitting that your spouse is not perfect, and neither are you, and you, are going to mess up. Some rule big or small is going to be broken along the way.
Once you admit this reality then you have an opportunity to do something incredible and be like Jesus to your spouse. You will have the opportunity to forgive them. The biggest way you can be like Jesus to your mate is to forgive them when they have hurt you, not agree to your side of the agreement (whatever that is), or disappoint you.
The question is… when you are hurting, will you have the ability to forgive?
Jesus often talked about forgiveness. Like the time he said, “If you hold anything against anyone, forgive them.” Mark 11:25 Wow! Like ok. Peter, one of Jesus disciples wanted a better definition of forgiveness than just “forgive them.” So one day he asks Jesus this question. Take a look at Matthew 18, verse 21, “Read Matthew 18:21.” This was a question rabbi’s and their students would ask each other and debate. A rule of thumb that existed was three times. Why? It was considered the person is not sincere at restoring the relationship if they keep doing something to hurt you three times or more. Seems reasonable to me.
So when Peter says, “seven” time he’s doubled it and added one more. Somehow he knew Jesus expected more. 7 in the Hebrew scriptures is the number for God. It is the complete number. So Peter thought he was asking Jesus, “So you want us to forgive like God? Come on, it’s an impossible standard.”
Isn’t that how we feel when the preacher gets up and talks about us forgiving someone, someone we love, made ourselves vulnerable to, has hurt us, brought shame to us? We think preacher I know Jesus wants me to forgive but that’s impossible. How can you expect me to do that after what they did? I’m not Jesus.
Look at Jesus’ reply, “Read Matthew 18:22.” Whaaaat???? Jesus just made it even more impossibler. Peter must have looked at Jesus with a stunned look on his face. Really. You have got to be kidding. How can I forgive like that?
Then Jesus tells a parable to push his point even further. Remember, in a parable someone is God and someone is you. In this case the King is God and you are the servant. Jesus starts, “Read Matthew 18:23.” Now, let me tell you who these servants are. They were the tax collectors for the King. He would have them collect taxes for a profit and it was time to settle the accounts and bring in the taxes. By the way, if you took on this responsibility it didn’t matter if the peasants paid you or not for the tax. You still had to pay the King regardless. You signed a contract. There were expectations to meet.
Verse 24, “Read Matthew 18:24.” 10,000 bags of gold. This amount would shock the people hearing the story. The amount he owed would be the GDP of a small nation. By comparison, Herod the Great, who was the Roman governor of the region, made 800 bags of gold a year. For the peasants listening it was 100 million days wages, or 284,090 years of annual income. In other words, there was no way for this guy to pay it back. No absolute way.
A couple of points here. If your spouse has hurt you, if they have let you down, then you feel like they owe you something. They are in debt to you. And it’s probably 10,000 bags of gold if it’s serious enough. Part of you wants them to pay for what they have done. How they have hurt you. When you think about it starts this little angry conversation in your head. You need to know they will never pay you back. It doesn’t matter how many times they apologize, do something to get your favor, it’s there. It’s history. And it cannot be erased. They cannot pay you back.
The same is true in your relationship to God. Your sin has failed God. You havenot lived up to the potential God has set for your life- and 200,090 lifetimes could never pay it back. And by the way, you are allotted one lifetime on this earth. You cannot pay back your debt to God by doing more good than bad. It doesn’t work that way.
Verse 25, “Read Matthew 18:25.” Notice here he cannot repay the debt, so he is punished instead, but not just him, his family as well. Listen, listen, anger, bitterness, rage, that you hold isn’t just about you. It hurts the other people you love. It also hurts your children. It hurts your friendships. It hurts you’re the one you love more and more, causing them anger and disappointment towards you, and the cycle goes down the drain.
Verse 26, “Read Matthew 18:26-27.” Wow! What an incredible act of forgiveness. This is what forgiveness is, it is cancelling the debt. It’s saying you no longer owe me. The forgiveness shown to this man is incredible. And it shows how gracious and kind God is toward your sin and failure to follow him.
Jesus isn’t done though, puts a twist to the story. Verse 28, “Read Matthew 18:28-31.” Whaatt? Why was the man so mean to the servant especially after what was done to him? The master heard about the incident.
Verse32, “Read Matthew 18:32-34.” Of course we know that will take at least over 200,000 years.
Now here is the kicker. Here is where Jesus pokes us a little bit, gets us squirming. He says, “Read Matthew 18:35.” What Jesus is saying is this. You have been greatly forgiven so you better greatly forgive. You have been greatly forgiven so you better forgive greatly. Ouch…
The question was, how in the world can I forgive like God? The answer: Embrace, receive, take hold of the grace given to you in Christ and his blood shed for you on the cross. The only way you will find the ability to cancel the debt and forgive your spouse when they fail you is to be in touch the amazing grace you have in Jesus. You have been greatly forgiven so you better forgive greatly. You have been forgiven to empower you to forgive.
Get this, if you are a Christ follower you are not called to imitate Christ’s forgiveness. You will never live up to that model. You will fail. You are not Jesus. He gave his life to you, not just for you. He forgave your sin and his grace lives in your heart. Until you get this your marriage will be just like everyone else. You are to take the forgiveness you have in Christ and forgive and use that to forgive those who have hurt you. You don’t imitate Jesus forgiveness, you offer Jesus forgiveness. That’s how. Jesus cancelled your debt so you cancel the debts owed to you.
Take a look at these two follow-up scriptures. One of the cool parts of the New Testament is you see what Jesus taught then you see later on how his followers interpreted and lived out what he taught. This is how they interpreted what Jesus taught here.
The first on is Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” What does it look like to cancel the debt someone owes you? You are then free to be kind and compassionate, despite the loss. The word “kind” here means to be useful. Do something practical that helps the relationship. That could mean spending money wisely. Going on a date. Sometimes it means cleaning house. Dressing nicely when you go out. Listen. Serve them. Get them a drink. Pull a bath for your wife. Pray together. Do what you once did that built up the relationship. If you forgive someone you are free to do such things. Be considerate of your wife as she often will make herself vulnerable and confront you on issues to make the relationship better.
It also says to be compassionate. In the Bible, compassion is an emotion that comes from deep within you. It’s not shallow or tries to cover things up. You demonstrate compassion by revealing your passion for your partner. We do this a lot when we are dating or when we are first married. We will often express our passion for our wife or husband. We will talk of their amazing personality, their patience, the good that we see in them. We express that passion is so many different ways. Some of us are writers, some of us send gifts. Some of us don’t like anything fancy, but just letting us how much we care. Many of us do it by sharing our day to day life together. You how hard it is to do that when you are harboring bitterness and anger over how this person has hurt you in some way? It doesn’t work to well. The only way to show that kind of compassion after being hurt is to forgive as Christ forgave you.
Take a look at this verse, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 What does it look like if you have forgiven as the Lord forgave you? You make allowance for each other’s faults. You bear with one another. Quit expecting your spouse to match up and be perfect. You might be a great listener and your spouse isn’t. That’s ok. Make allowances for that. She might be sloppy and you are a neat freak. Make allowances for that. They may be forgetful and don’t follow through and you are a stickler- make allowances for that. I know these are little things but I’ve seen couples assassinate each other’s character over these issues. And yes, sometimes you are grieved. That word “offends” can also mean grievance. Sometimes your spouse’s fault grieves you. It saddens you. And it’s true you really have to bear it. Where can you find the ability to do that? Through the forgiveness you have received in Jesus Christ.
Just to be clear- forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t deal with the issues and sweep them away- only to be hurt again. The Bible has a principle of coming together and reasoning together and dealing with the tough issues. But you will not be able to do even that- if you cannot forgive as Christ forgave you.
And why should you forgive? You forgive greatly because you have been forgiven greatly. Not because the other party deserves it. You cancel the debt because your debt has been cancelled. You forgive greatly because you have been greatly forgiven.