This is Section 2 of 2 of Lesson 4: The Wisdom of Christ’s Teachings. Click here to go back to the introduction of this lesson.
Of all the words that we might associate with Jesus, forgiveness has to be right there among the top. Jesus and forgiveness go together. Amid the excruciating agony of the cross, and as soldiers and people derided and abused Him, the heartrending words stumbled out through quivering lips: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). And in the Sermon on the Mount He went so far as to say that if we do not forgive those who offend us, then we should not expect God to forgive our offenses against Him (Matt. 6: 12,14,15). ABSG-t p46.
Another of Jesus’ important sayings about forgiveness is:
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you,[a] rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you,[b] saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Luke 17:3,4 (NKJV)
This is extreme forgiveness! We might be gracious with a first offender, but we are all by nature much harsher on repeat offenders. Do you think Jesus is wanting us to understand how He deals with us – and how extensive His love and grace is?
The study guide has a very interesting line of thinking in relation to forgiveness:
In Mark 14:21, Jesus uttered a woe upon the “man who betrays the Son of Man.” But suppose that man were to confess and repent? In this connection, contrast the actions of Judas and Peter following their separate betrayals of Jesus. After witnessing Jesus’ condemnation by those who had arrested Him, Judas, “seized with remorse,” returned the betrayal money to the authorities; and his words seemed most appropriate: “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:3, 4, NIV). In contrast to Judas’ public display of regret, Peter’s tears of penitence were shed in silence; nor did he return to Caiaphas’ judgment hall to make amends for his shameful betrayal. Yet, the one was condemned, the other forgiven. What was the crucial difference? ABSG-t p46.
To bring all this theory back into the ‘here and now’, consider the following question posed by the Study Guide:
How are we to understand forgiveness in a practical sense? For instance, a woman can forgive a husband who beats her, but does forgiveness mean leaving oneself vulnerable to more abuse? How can we forgive while at the same time be wise and prudent enough to protect ourselves and others from those who have violated our trust? ABSG-t p46.
Can you resolve the tension between the need to show unending forgiveness and the need to protect ourselves and our loved ones? For instance, the Study Guide points out the fact that during World War I, the British and French governments forbade the distribution of a pamphlet of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – because of it’s focus on loving our enemies!
That’s it for this week. I hope we all continue to think about the depths of God’s grace and forgiveness as we go through the upcoming week. See you again next time.
** Sections noted as “ABSG-t” are extracts taken from the Adult Bible Study Guide, teachers edition for this week. This guide in it’s entirety can be found here.