I am sure you have met people who report their lack of attendance at the house of God on worship days because “there are hypocrites there.” Welcome to the neighborhood, we are all hypocrites in one shape or other. We offend because we fail to think, we judge because we feel we are superior in our spiritual understanding, we respond with forked tongue more often than not. Jesus remarked that if we are to be found faithful we must be faithful in much as well as trustworthy. We must be honest in all of our relationships and demonstrate to the world God’s way of responding. Jesus had just taught about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had every opportunity to forgive and respond in kindness but he chose not to do so and now Jesus follows up that in chapter 17.
The rich man’s problem was that he chose to offend, he chose to be a stumbling block, and he chose to ignore Lazarus’ need. Jesus begins by saying, yes offenses will come, but WOE to the one that is the cause. And so he bridges from this parable to teach his disciples about kingdom life. He said “watch/guard yourself” in how you respond as the true test of kingdom living is forgiveness even if someone offends or abuses us 7 times in a day and returns to seek forgiveness OR even if they do not accept our forgiveness or respond to it. It was common in that day for the Pharisees to keep a record of offenses—-Jesus says that is not God’s way. Instead look at it this way. You are the servant, the slave in the kingdom. When we offer forgiveness to another we have a choice to respond in one of two ways:
- We can say pridefully that it was hard to do but it had to be done. OR
- We say as the servant in this story: ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’” In other words, we were obedient as that is the model of God’s forgiveness.
Now Jesus uses the story of the 10 lepers to teach even more about this principle: we are not only to forgive but also when forgiven we are to thank the forgiver and healer of our soul. Only one leper returned to Jesus to thank him. He was saying to the disciples, you see this leper; that is true kingdom living. He was saying you are the blessed receivers but often fail to thank God for it. The other lepers went on their way healed but they did not return. That is how forgiveness often works. Some are accepting of our gift and others just take it for granted. Also, some choose to keep a record of those times they forgave. You have failed to see that you are to be like the servants “we have done our duty;” obedient to the teaching of Christ. Mat 6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Jesus says, no matter the response, it is our attitude and our obedience as servants in the kingdom. It is our duty as God’s servants.
To all of this the disciples respond with this statement: Increase our faith. Jesus said it doesn’t need to be increased; you already have the faith you need, you just need to exercise it, plant it and watch the results.
So the questions before us are many but here are a few: Where are you holding an unforgiving spirit within? Where are you judging without mercy? Where are you like the 9 lepers who have failed to thank God for His forgiveness of your sin?