New New Has Come
Series: Introduction to Pauline Letters
Matthew 18:15-20 ESV
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
2 Corinthians 5:13-20 ESV
Galatians 5:22 (Fruit of the Spirit)
While we know the facts about Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus, we do not know everything that happened in the early days after his conversion. What did he feel? Did he regret his previous persecutions of the people of the way? How did he reconcile himself with the people of the way?
Plus, the early Christians who knew of Paul’s reputation must have been skeptical of Paul in the beginning. They would have needed to reconcile their past feelings about Paul.
They would have needed to forgive him for what he did to them.
That would have been very difficult because he wanted to kill every person who believed in Jesus. This was a fierce driving force that was persecuting them.
Paul was there when Stephen was stoned and he approved of his stoning! Because of that they probably would not have trusted him or his claim of conversion.
How do we forgive someone who hurt us so deeply?
The answer is, we cannot. We are not capable of that kind of love.
We’ve all experienced times when we’ve suffered the pain of rejection. We have been treated badly.
I can hardly remember the first time I realized I do not possess the capability to forgive someone. It was a very long time ago.
I remember when I was young I knew I needed to forgive them because we are told to forgive. Scripture was clear about it. My dad talked about the importance of forgiving others.
In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus told His disciples, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Jesus was really clear with His disciples about the breadth and depth of forgiveness. Immediately following the way to forgive, Peter asked him a difficult question in Matthew 18:21-22, ”Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “ I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Many translations say 70 x 7.
The importance of the number Jesus gave them is that it signifies an unlimited number. Jesus was saying, “as many times as it takes” (https://www.christianity.com/wiki/sin/what-is-the-significance-of-seventy-times-seven-in-forgiveness.html).
In other words, as many times as it takes for us to be able to actually forgive the person.
We know from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:13-20, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Paul totally understood the crazy journey with God!
When we turn to God (I believe just one time for one instant) we become reconciled through Jesus.
That means Jesus has reconciled us and does not count our sin against us. In the same way since we belong to Jesus as ambassadors we join with Him in forgiving others.
We do not accomplish the forgiveness. Christ in us is the great reconciler.
So, when someone sins against us, Christ in us forgives them. We may not feel the ‘ooey gooey’ feeling of love for them because of our human nature, but when we speak the words, I forgive them” we are giving Christ permission to work through our human feelings.
Trust me on this. I’ve practiced the act of forgiveness thousands of times. When I’ve been hurt…no matter how much I’ve been hurt, and I say “I forgive them”, Jesus takes over. Working it all out may take time, but in time God worked it all out.
I’ve taught reconciling forgiveness to children and (so they would understand) I said “I forgive them” using a silly loud tone. The point is even if we do not have good feelings about the person we are forgiving, Jesus accepts our words and begins the process of reconciliation.
Jesus in us does the work of forgiveness.
We do not do the work.
Only God/Jesus can give us what we need to forgive.
Through Jesus, God gave us a way to receive and give forgiveness. When we turn to Jesus, through Jesus we become a new creature. Jesus makes us a new creation. The old passes away and the new new comes…often ever so gradually it comes.
One of the fruit of the Spirit Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:22 is God’s Gentleness. God is gentle with us, and gently teaches us and helps us to forgive.
Spiritual Practice: Forgive
Say the words, I forgive ______. Jesus will do the rest.
In God, Deborah