Guest Author: Thomas Schnable
21 Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to [a]seventy-seven times.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven [b]is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 And when he had begun to settle them, one who owed him [c]ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he [d]did not have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the master of that slave felt compassion, and he released him and forgave him the [e]debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred [f]denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling, [g]and went and threw him in prison until he would pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his master *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the [h]torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your [i]heart.”Matt. 18:21-35, NASB
In the late 60’s and early 70’s God caused what I have come to believe was the Third Great Awakening in this country and throughout the world. Many young people of my generation were brought to Christ, many from outside the established churches of our day. At that time a great materialism and communist influence had possessed the generation known to you as the baby boomers. It was in many ways identical to what is happening in your generation today.
But God had other plans for us. Tens of thousands were called by the Spirit out of the wickedness that pervaded the land. Many who lived in a Satanic sub-culture were giving their lives over to Christ. Receiving forgiveness of their sins, sins which were great in nature, they began spreading the good news of the gospel among their friends. This was the birth of the Jesus Movement and the beginning of what would later become known as Christian Contemporary Music.
We took very seriously scriptures like:
12“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.John 14:12-17
And 1 John:
9 The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother and sister remains in the Light, and there is nothing in him to cause stumbling. 11 But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.1 John 1:9-11
Matthew 18:21-37 is a parable by our Lord of the consequences of not loving the brethren. These texts are just three examples that we used to determine who was a Christian and who was not. So, forgiveness was an essential part of life in our fellowships. When unforgiveness occurred, it rippled through the gatherings in the fellowship. It was like a bad smell, or an uneasy feeling was present in our midst. A feeling something was wrong.
On the night he died, Jesus prayed in John 17 what has become to be known as the high Priestly Prayer. In it he prayed:
22 The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected [g]in unity, so that the world may [h]know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.John 17:22-24
There is much to be unpacked in these verses, but it is crystal clear that Jesus died so that the oneness we have as Christians would be as close as that between the Father and Son. That because we are one in Christ we are one with each other. There can be no division in Christ.
Ephesians 4 shows how the Spirit applies this in our lives as his people:
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.Eph. 4:1-5
This unity in the Spirit is also expressed another way again in 1 John 3:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested [b]in us, that God has sent His [c]only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.1 John 3:7-14
In this text we can see
- the relationship of Jesus’ prayer in John 17
- the application by the Spirit of our being one in Christ and one another by Christ’s redemptive work at Calvary in Ephesians 4
- the absolute truth that you cannot claim to love the Father if you do not love your brother or sister.
This scriptures teach unequivocally that if you do not love your brother by not forgiving your brother and sister you are not saved and you remain dead in your trespasses and sins.
Hebrews 2:3 on the Jews rejecting the gospel states, “how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation”. As it is the rejecting of Jesus’ work of salvation spoken here so it applies to rejection of Christ’s redemption if we do not forgive our brother or sister.
Matthew 26 says:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [o]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”Matt. 26:36-38
And Galatians 5:
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who [k]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Gal. 5:19-24
The continuation of unforgiveness is a work of the flesh. And as Jesus People we did not allow it and one who would not repent was not considered a believer. More in Part 2.