In the name of Jesus. Amen.“In the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”
Faith flows from His forgiveness, is enlivened from it, embraces it, and lives from it. So, let’s start put His forgiveness into practice like good Lutherans.
Repeat after me: “I forgive you.” Look to the person on closest to you and say with me, “I forgive you.” Look to the other person near you and say after me, “I forgive you.”
Think of that person who did that terrible thing to you. You know the one, you haven’t talked to that person in forever. Think it, “I forgive you.” Then, later call them and tell them you forgive them.
They’re sorry. “I forgive you.” They aren’t really sorry. “I forgive you.” They literally just stabbed you in the back – the wound is still fresh. “I forgive you.” They et-tu-bruti-ed-I-believe-this-is-yours-you ten years ago. “I forgive you.”
They betrayed you. “I forgive you.” They failed you. “I forgive you.” They’ve lied about you, slandered you, hurt you beyond repair. “I forgive even you.”
And that person that you’re thinking right now, “No way. I’m not gonna forgive that person. I don’t care what pastor says.” Well, this is from Jesus to you: “I forgive you.”
But pastor, this won’t work. They are just gonna hurt me again. They are gonna take advantage of me, hurt my family, lie again, slander me again, and take more. I just can’t. Fool me once, shame on you. I’ll never make seven times forgiving them, let alone 490.
But the guy in the parable owed the King ten thousand talents. That’s, like, a not-even-really-conceivable amount of money in ancient times. It would take something like six million days or a thousand years of servitude to pay that debt off.
So the servant leaves with the gazillion-bazillon dollar forgiveness of his debt and goes to the first person that owes him something pathetically small, like a hundred days wages, and says, “Pay me!” The Father wasn’t pleased – not at all.
“Well, Pastor, the master forgave him because he asked for mercy. So, I’ll forgive people who are really truly sorry.”
Nope, St. Peter, you got it wrong. Jesus doesn’t say the Father will punish those who do not forgive those who are sorry. He says He will punish you if you don’t forgive those who sin against you – sorry or not.
For the Lord Jesus suffered on the cross for all your sins – every last one. Your big sins, your little sins, your sins you know about, your sins you don’t know about. Even the ones you aren’t sorry for.
So, repent! The Lord has forgiven you such terrible sins so that you can forgive others. You can’t not forgive because you can’t not be the one who is involved in some way in the train-wreck that is your sins.
“I know I’m a sinner, Pastor, but they…” Not they, you. You are the worst sinner, the chief of all, and cause of this. I am too. My sins caused this. My failures hurt you. I crucified you and the Lord of Glory with what I have done and haven’t done daily and much.
“I’ll forgive them, Pastor, but I’ll never forget.” No, that’s not how Jesus treats you. He remembers your sins no more. To be forgiven is to have your sins forgotten by God.
So, Friends, start baptizing everyone today with the forgiveness you’ve received from Jesus. Each person, each sin, each trespass, drown it in the waters of your Baptism. Each failure, throw it up against the Cross. Forgiven, forgotten and never spoken of again.
Or do you want to stand before God and be judged on the Last Day for the forgiveness that you have not shown others? Do you want to hold things against them after the Lord has forgiven every last one of your deep dark sins?
No, Christianity goes like this: Christ died for all your sins and the sins of the whole world. Your sins first, your sins most.
And I know that their failure really hurt you and sometimes you feel like you didn’t do anything wrong. And I know that if it was just a pile of sins, it’d be easy. But it’s one sin, then another, then another, then another. And each one hurts more than the last.
But you sin against God one sin, then another, and then another. You’re sorry, and then you do it again. Not seven times, not four hundred ninety times, but six million days’ worth of sins over the course of your whole life.
I know that you don’t want to forgive. You want to keep your walls up. But, the only unforgivable sin is to reject forgiveness. It’s saying to the person who sinned, “Christ died for all and forgives all except you.”
You may be right. You may have done nothing wrong. They may have done everything evil. But, not forgiving, is the evilest trick fo the devil. It puts you and your soul in mortal danger.
But, Christ has taken on your humanity and has raised it up again. So bury their sins. Don’t mention them. Crucify them and put them in the grave with Jesus, never to be talked about again.
Rise to new life to treat others like Jesus threats you – always forgiving, always showing mercy, always given one more day of love and life.
And when (not if) they hurt you again, forgive them. If they ask for your tunic, give them your cloak as well. And if they finally crucify you, remember that He was crucified first for you. You’ll rise again as surely as you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus today in the Sacrament.
“But.. I can’t forgive.” No, you can’t. But, Jesus has forgiven you and them. He knows no one deserves forgiveness. He died for you and me and we don’t deserve forgiveness.
But, His words will enliven you to forgive. It starts by speaking the Words. Then, day by day, in your Baptism, living them.
So, first to the person closest to you, repeat after me, “I forgive you.” And then the other person near you, “I forgive you.” Later, in your families and in your neighborhoods, and even to the people who really hurt you and you don’t think you can forgive, especially to them: “I forgive you.”
Oh…and last but not least, look at me. I’m your pastor. I’m a walking mess-up and I need to hear it to. I’m the worst of the worst of sinners. So please give me an “I forgive you” too.
In the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you all your sins. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.