The story for today is an interesting one, just for where it is placed in the narrative of this gospel. Last time we were together, we heard a parable about a servant who didn’t receive any thanks. And we talked about how we are not to be consumed with ourselves and think that we ought to be recognized by God.
That’s something of the focus of this text. The passage moves along well at the beginning. It tells us of 10 guys who were lepers, all of whom were healed. But when you get to verse 15, the “oooo” factor starts. Verse 15 tells us that only one of the ten turns back. Then verse 16 tells us that he lavishes his thanks upon Christ. He falls on his face and pours out his gratitude.
Now, we’re glad that one of the ten came back, but one out of ten is not a good ratio. Nine guys completely blew Jesus off after he had saved them from this terrible, awful disease.
If you don’t know anything about leprosy, you have to realize that it was a hideous thing. It is essentially a rotting of the flesh. Lepers were known to have fingers and toes fall off. Their noses could too. It was a hideous thing to become afflicted with this disease.
Not only that, but if you came down with it you became a social outcast. You were expelled from society and you were cut off from all communion with your family.
And to be healed of this kind of thing meant new life for you. It was a second change to live and you had the opportunity to be restored to all that you had lost.
So, you can imagine now how this is a little awkward, to say the least, when just one of these guys comes back. And to highlight the ingratitude even more, Luke makes sure to point out that the one guy who did come back was a Samaritan.
Now that hurts. The one guy who had some gratitude was a foreigner—and not just any foreigner, a SAMARITAN! The guys who were the Jews—the ones who should have known better—were the ones who just walked off without ever giving any sort of regards.
What that is is nothing more than rank ingratitude.
I remember a number of months ago I had met a couple for dinner. We went out to dinner and we enjoyed a very nice time at this particular restaurant. And we had a very nice waitress. She was kind and did a superb job of taking care of us while we ate. After the dinner, we got up and walked out. I paid the bill and we said our good-byes. Then we got in our cars and went our separate ways. When I was about half way home, I realized that I didn’t leave a tip for our waitress. You know, we call that a “gratuity.” A gratuity is an expression of “gratitude.”
Now I lived about a half hour to 45 minutes away. And here I was, about half way home, and I realized that I had not left this tip. I thought about blowing it off. I mean, if I turned back, this half hour trip would turn into at least an hour trip. And it was already getting late. But I knew that wouldn’t be right. You can’t just stiff a waitress like that. Then I thought, well, maybe I can mail it to her. I just want to get home. No. that wouldn’t work either. She probably wouldn’t get it. So I had to turn around.
Why? Why go to all that trouble? It is because of how necessary a thing it is to show gratitude. If you don’t show your appreciation for some acts of kindness, then that is a grievous sin. It is a reprehensible thing. As one person said, “ingratitude is treason to mankind.”
I like the way that sounds. That really picks up well how heinous a thing ingratitude really is. Immanuel Kant says something similar. He says, “Ingratitude is the essence of vileness.”
You know, we are going through the Heidelberg catechism right now. And it has been mentioned that the Catechism is divided into three sections. The first part talks about our sin. The second part talks about our salvation. And the third part talks about our service. The three sections are Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. That last part goes through the 10 commandments. Those commandments are the way we express our thanks to God. And the authors of the catechism got it right. The life we live is a response to God’s grace. The sum of the Bible’s teaching is that the whole of our lives is to be an expression of gratitude to God for his kindness.
Now, young people, I want you to keep that in mind. I want you to realize how important it is to express how thankful you are. When someone does a favor for you, you got to make sure that you express your thanks. When mom makes dinner for you, you should be grateful for that. She works hard to make something for you to eat and she’s trying to take care of you, so its good that you tell her how thankful you are. When you are eating, or when you are done eating, you should say, “Thank you, mommy, for making that dinner.”
And even if you don’t like it, you should still eat it. She’s not going to serve you something that’s going to hurt you. Mom is looking out for you. And typically she’s making food that is going to be good for you. And even if you don’t like it, you should still eat it. That’s because that’s one way you show her how grateful you are for all that she does for you.
You can sit there and pitch a fit about what she made, but that’s not going to sit well with mommy (or daddy for that matter). If you make a big fuss about how you don’t like what is being served, that really can hurt your mother’s feelings. That’s because that’s a form of ingratitude. You need to eat what she makes for you. Even if you don’t like it, you need to eat it out of respect for her and all that she does for you.
You need to honor what she’s done for you. You want to show that you are grateful for her hard work and for the love that she shows you in trying to take good care of you.
My wife was raised on the importance of writing thank-you notes. If someone gives you a gift or does a kindness for you, my wife was taught to acknowledge that by sending them a thank-you card.
That is a good thing. Those are the kinds of things we are supposed to do. Gratitude is one of the chief expressions of honor.
This is, of course, doubly important when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. God demonstrates great kindness to us all the time. Chief among these is His promised to save us. If we just sluff that off, that is terrible.
If you want to be a follower of Christ, then your life has to be one of gratitude. That’s why we urge you to study the commandments of God. That’s why we think that coming to worship each Lord’s day should be a priority for you. It’s because this is the way you express your thanks to God.
If you are not seeking to respond in this kind of way—if worship doesn’t become a priority in your life and you continue living in the same old sins, then we have every right to think that you are not a Christian. That’s basically a slap in God’s face to act that way. It reveals that you have no real affection for him whatsoever.
You’re acting just like one of these thankless lepers. You’re acting like an ungrateful Israelite who has no appreciation for the Lord or his kindness.
I mean, all that he did for these lepers was symbolic of what he does for us. He gives us new life! He saves us from death and destruction. He takes away the pollution of sin and restores to us all that we lost by our sin. And if we don’t properly respond to that, that is a grievous sin.
But really, this is the story of Israel’s history. The ingratitude of these 9 lepers is essentially keeping in character with the ingratitude and forgetfulness of the whole of Israel.
Back in the book of Deuteronomy there is a whole section devoted to this very thing. Moses is speaking to the people and he says, “When you come into the land and start to prosper, be careful that you don’t forget the Lord.” Moses warns them that once they begin to grow rich and fat, then they would be in danger of forgetting that it was God who had blessed them all along. They would fail to realize that all that they have come to possess was due to the Lord’s hand being with them. And as a result, they would start living atheistic lives.
That’s essentially what happened here. These Lepers were just repeating everything Israel had done all through her history. They were enjoying all the benefits—they were living high off of God’s goodness—but they failed time and again to truly love him and show true gratitude.
You do have this one Samaritan though. And what we see here should give us more reason to rejoice. Remember, when you read this you have to put yourself in Gentile Sandles. Luke was writing to a Gentile audience and this is key for them. When they read that Jesus grants this Samaritan salvation, that’s a real boost for them. That’s cause for thanks because they realize that this life—this saving grace—can be theirs.
And it can be yours too. All it takes is for you to trust Christ for it and you can have it. That’s right there at the end of the passage, “Your faith has made you well.” If we were to translate that literally, it would say, “Your faith has saved you.”
What is it to have faith? It is simply to trust Christ and take him at his word.
You know, what is said here about Jesus is really interesting. The gospel here is that Jesus is the greater priest. He’s greater than all the priests in Israel. You see, the priests were in charge of diagnosing someone if they had leprosy. If you are ever reading through the Bible, its likely that you’ve come across Leviticus 13-14. Those are chapters that most people skip. And for good reason. It is not exciting stuff. They are chapters detailing what you should do if you have some infection form on your skin. In chapter 13 it says that if you have something white form on your skin, you need to go to the priest and the priest will determine if you have leprosy or not. Chapter 14 contains instructions on the possibility of being declared healed. If your leprosy goes away, you were to show yourself to the priest and he could give you the thumbs up or down on whether you could go back home or not.
So, the point is that the priest could say that you were infected or he could pronounced that you’ve been healed. He could declare you unclean or he could declare you clean. But there is one thing that the priest could not do. He could not heal you. He did not have the power to actually remove the uncleanness.
But here in this passage Jesus is shown to be a greater priest. He has the power to heal the uncleanness.
Of course, this is all pointing to the greater reality of being able to save you from your sin. Through this miracle Jesus is declaring that he is the priest who can make you clean. He can save you from the filth that has polluted your soul and he can make you whole again. If you put your trust in him, he is able to cleanse you from all wrong. He is able to restore you to a right standing with God.
Now, that was being declared to Israel. That’s what this story is all about. This incident with the Lepers was Jesus’ way of declaring to Israel that their Priest had come to bring them salvation. But that went over well, didn’t it? I mean, no one wants to acknowledge it! No one, except this Samaritan, wants anything to do with Jesus. Sure, they might take the benefits he might offer them, but no one wants Jesus.
That’s ingratitude at its blazing worst.
All this kind of begs one question though. Why is Jesus going to Jerusalem? In the first verse we read told us that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He was on the border of Samaria and Galilee, and he’s making his way to Jerusalem, which is the home of the Jews.
Now, let me ask you, if you knew these Jews were so ungrateful and yet you had a Samaritan who warmed to you, what would you do? I’m betting you wouldn’t keep on going down to Jerusalem. If it were me, I’d be inclined to follow this Samaritan home and see if anyone else from his clan might be interested in what I had to say. Here’s a guy who is willing to listen to you. Here’s a fellow who is truly grateful and willing to worship you! I’m thinking that there might be a good party at his house.
But that’s not what Jesus does, is it? Verse 11 is key. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He’s on his way to the City of Ingratitude.
Why is that? What would impel him to go to the capital of thanklessness? The reason is because the gospel demands it.
You see, there is another part of Leviticus 14. The last portion of Leviticus 14 details the laws about cleansing your house. If you find that an infectious disease has broken out in your house, the priest is to come and check it out. If he determines that a disease has broken out, your house needs to be razed. Your house is basically condemned, and it has to be torn down. You can’t just board it up. If you do that, then the disease will remain. It has to be completely razed. That’s the only way you can get rid of the disease.
Of course, that is what Jesus has come to do. He is the greater priest who has come to rid the world of sin. And the only way that can happen is if he is condemned. The Levitical law was pointing towards Christ and what he had come to do. It was ultimately about Christ and how he would deal with the disease of sin.
That’s what happened on the cross. And that is why he cannot deviate from his Jerusalem Road. When he gets to Jerusalem, those ungrateful people will bring their ingratitude to its climax by crucifying him. But as he is condemned, he brings salvation to the people.
A while back NPR did a short bit on a man who was pulled over for a traffic violation. When the police officer ran the man’s ID, it was flagged as a stolen identification.
The officer went back and asked the man for another form of identification. The man then proceeded to pull out various government approved documents proving who he was. He had things like a military card, social security card and the like.
As the story turns out, when the man was young he stole this identity. He had lived for years under this false name. He had developed a whole life under a mistaken identity and it had come to define everything about him. Really, he was no longer who he was really supposed to be.
In the Christian life we can experience a similar kind of thing. We often identify ourselves in a way that is not in keeping with who we really are. We live, so to speak, with a false view of ourselves. And that, of course, ends up shaping the whole course of our lives.
But in Scripture we are told that we are to identify ourselves in certain ways. And certainly this text is one good example of this. In this passage Jesus talks about our identity. He recognizes that we tend to take on a false persona. But if we are going to be one of his disciples, we have to view ourselves in a particular way. We are to be identify ourselves as Unworthy servants.
And this morning, I would like to take a few minutes to unpack this parable. I want us to get the right perspective on ourselves so that we are not living under any false pretenses.
And really, I want to do two things this morning. I want to look at the principle that is asserted here, and then seek to apply. I think that there are two very practical ways this passage applies to us.
But of course, let’s start simply by unpacking what Jesus says here. What is the principle that is being laid out in this text?
I. The principle stated
This parable is about the spirit of humility that ought to characterize a Christian. Jesus wishes to paint in exaggerated terms what our attitude ought to be when it comes to our service to God. And that attitude is supposed to be one of humble duty.
I mention this because it can be easy to get distracted with some of the other details in the parable. For instance, you might be tempted to think that Jesus is comparing God to the master in this parable. And if you do that then you are going to have a rather warped view of God.
God is going to become someone who is cold and demanding. That’s the way the master is presented. He seems rather unloving and does not have the same tenderness and warmth that we’ve seen expressed in the past (like, for instance, in the parable of the Prodigal son).
And you might get the feeling that God is something of an indomitable ogre. He’s one who is not really all that different from Pharaoh and his taskmasters, demanding nothing but raw service.
So, make sure you don’t try to glean anything more than this parable is trying to say. This parable isn’t saying anything about God, necessarily, and neither is it trying to say something about how much we do.
Just as you could get the wrong idea about God, you could get the wrong idea about what really counts to God.
Someone might say, “Well, I will only be something in God’s eyes if I do as much as this slave here does.” Of course, this slave works sun up to sun down. He has no time for frivolity or laxity. It is only work, work, work. And, you might be tempted to say, that is the only thing that makes God satisfied.
But that’s not biblical. That is the greatest lie ever told. God doesn’t relate to us on the basis of how much we do. If that were true, then we wouldn’t even be allowed into the house. If it were up to our performance, then God would have nothing to do with us because our performance cannot keep up.
We have to remember the teaching of all of Scripture. Scripture says that God relates to us, not on the basis of how much we do, but on the basis of his grace. It is based in his covenant and his pledge to love us even when we are unlovely.
So let’s be clear about that. This parable is not trying to teach us anything about the nature of God or the nature of our acceptance with God. It is merely trying to point us to the way we are to view our service to God.
The parable is telling us that we are to recognize that all that we do for God is to be kept in perspective. We are to recognize that God never owes us anything. He is never indebted to us. Instead, our service is simply a response to what he has allowed us to become.
He has made us his servants. And you have to understand that such a thing meant something to the average Israelite. In Israel, most of the slavery that existed was voluntary slavery. If you didn’t have any means to provide for yourself or your family, you could become someone’s slave. And that person who takes you into his home becomes to you a savior. Your options were to either die, or to receive this person’s generousity whereby you enter his home and begin to serve him. When you do that you get life.
And that’s what’s being said here. God has become to you a Savior. You deserved to die in your sins, but God has bestowed upon you a great deal of generosity and allowed you to become his servant. And as you serve him, what you do is nothing but a kindness to him. You can recognize that you are an unworthy servant who is only performing the right duty that such generous grace deserves.
That’s what this parable is saying.
And now that you understand that—now that we understand the principle—let’s think about the practical implications. How is something like this applied?
II. The principle applied
I think what is said here addresses two specific areas. I believe, on the one hand, it addresses a lot of what we find in pop psychology today.
A. It flies in the face of pop psychology
This passage tells us that we are to see ourselves as “unprofitable servants.” Now, to our contemporary society, this is anathema. This is a vulgarity that is considered to be something that grates against a healthy self esteem.
We live in a culture that has made an idol of self and self esteem. Everyone deserves a trophy because we don’t want anyone feeling bad about how they performed. We don’t want anyone thinking they are dumb.
There are movements in education where teachers are no longer allowed to use red pens to correct papers. As a matter of fact, they are not to make any marks at all! That might damage a child’s self esteem.
Instead, we need to build that self esteem. We need to maximize their potential, so it is said. We need them to view themselves in a positive light and help them think that they can do or be anything.
And this is just magnified by the smartphones and the ability to carry cameras in our pockets. We live in a “selfie culture.” You pull out your phone and you take a picture of yourself. Then you upload it to your favorite social media outlet for all the world to see. And you do that not because you have any particular memory that you want to capture, but because you know that you are so wonderful. And of course all the world wants to see you and your “duck face”. I mean, how are they going to make it through the day without seeing a picture of you sticking out your tongue?
Why is this phenomena so rabid in our culture today? It is because people today have an overly inflated view of themselves. It is vanity. And much of this is due to the fact that we’ve had teachers and psychologists have ramped us up on having a high self esteem.
But these trends in psychology are nothing more than getting us to trick ourselves. It is a study in what the Bible calls self-deception. They are trying to get us to believe things about ourselves that are not really true. They want you to believe that you are prettier than you are. You must tell yourself that you are smarter than you are. By gum, the world loves you and would be at a loss without you.
As one pastor put it, “Our culture is all about promoting inaccurate self-assessment; assessing yourself, but doing it in a way that is not accurate.”
And in the face of all this Scripture says that we are to view ourselves, not as a Royal Fairy Princes, but rather we are to view ourselves as “unworthy servants.” The word unworthy there can be translated, “Useless; good for nothing.”
That will change how many selfies you take. But that’s the way we are really to see ourselves. We are not to take an inflated view of ourselves. We are to take a lowly view, because, ultimately, we are nothing because we are sinners.
And that brings us to the second realm of application. This parable not only flies in the face of pop psychology, it flies in the face of personal merit. It not only is a deadly blow to false claims to self esteem; it destroys any notion of self righteousness.
B. It flies in the face of personal merit
What Jesus says here is simply a reminder that is nothing that we have done to merit God’s favor. No matter what we do, there is no way God will be indebted to us. We should not think that God owes us any thanks for anything that we ever do in his service.
You remember that Jesus is always battling that Pharisaical spirit, which is nothing other than a theological selfie. It is that spirit that says, “I’m just so good. Look at how good I am! Look at all that I’ve done for the Lord.”
You remember what we said last week. Jesus was teaching this idea of forgiveness. He said, when a man repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times and comes to you seven times and repents, then you must forgive him. And we said that this was far beyond what passed for real spirituality among the religious leaders.
And you might be tempted, after you’ve done this forgiving thing to say, “Well, I’ve got it going on now! Look at just how spiritual I am!”
We all are susceptible to this. We are ever in danger of that spiritual vanity where we think we deserve some sort of recognition.
I like how JC Ryle puts it. He says, “Seldom will a man be found who does not secretly flatter himself that there is someone worse than he is. Seldom will a saint be found who is not at seasons tempted to be satisfied and well pleased with himself.”
In the face of this Jesus says, we are to view ourselves as unworthy servants. In other words: Remember that we are owed nothing.
Any adoration or recognition that is given is to be the Lord’s, and his alone.
Some of you might know the story of Narcissus. Narcissus is a Greek myth and it is where we get our word “narcissism.” Narcissus was said to be a boy who was overly infatuated with himself. He thought he was so beautiful and so glorious that he couldn’t stop gazing at himself. One day he caught a glimpse of his reflection in a pond. He was mezmorized by how grand he was. His reflection was so beautiful that he bent over to kiss it. As he did so he lost his balance, fell in, and drowned.
The moral of the story, of course, is to shun that kind of vanity.
That story gets at something of what this parable is all about. We are all spiritual narcissists by nature. And we need to resist that temptation to glory in how glorious and grand we think we are.
Ultimately, we need to be like Christ. What Jesus says here is really in keeping with his own identity. Jesus is calling us to follow himself. For you know that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But he humbled himself, taking the form of a servant.
All that he did was a turning away from himself. It was all done for the purpose of serving the Father.
May we seek to emulate Christ in our own lives. And may we glory only in the Cross that he bore, which allows us this opportunity to be his servants.
In the late 1800’s the famous poet Sir Edwin Arnold was invited to speak at Harvard. During that seminar there was one memorable sentence that seized upon every hearer. He gave a succinct description of the wars of our past, and of the greatest contest yet to come.
Some have said that it is this very notion that approaches the heart of our present problems in America.
As we’ve been studying the gospel of Luke we have seen again and again that the Lord calls us to engage in this war. Over and over Jesus has laid out for us what it means to be one of his disciples. And we have seen that we have been called to wage war against the devil, and the world. But perhaps the one conflict that Jesus has most focused upon is the war we must wage against our own flesh.
And as we look at our passage today, we understand that Jesus calls us to this battle front once again. You see it clearly in verse three when he says, “Pay attention to yourselves!” He is reminding us that we must be vigilant to fight against sin.
Indeed, that is a great battle because sin is something that we typically like to ignore or let slide. Our natural tendency is to be very lackadaisical in regards to it. Not only do we fail to refrain from it, but afterward we have fallen into it we usually ignore it. We want to brush it under the rug and act like everything is just fine.
But in Christ’s kingdom, that is not acceptable. Christ tells us that as his disciples sin must be dealt with properly. And in this passage he shows us precisely how we deal with it. In sum, he tells us that sin must be acknowledged, admonished, and absolved. There needs to be confession, correction, and compassion.
In verses 1-2 Jesus shows us how important it is for us to acknowledge sin.
I. Sin must be acknowledged [1-2]
Ultimately, it needs to be acknowledged because sin is harmful to others and to us. He says “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom [that temptation] comes! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the see than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”
You see how sin can be harmful to yourself. If you do not confess your sins and acknowledge them before God, then you see what is going to happen to you. God is going to punish you. And he is going to punish you in a way that makes being drown in the sea desireable. That’s how bad it will be if you don’t confess your sins.
But you also see how harmful your sin can be to others. He says, “Woe to the one through whom that temptation comes.” The emphasis of this verse is on the other people who are affected by your sin. That’s what makes the punishment so terrible. You are punished because you’ve led others astray.
Essentially, Jesus says that you can become an instrument of the devil. By your lifestyle you can influence others, and you can lead others into sin.
Remember that we talked about this last time. We talked about the Rich man who lived a life of luxury and ease. But when he was in hell, he found himself in agony, wanting to turn his brothers in the right direction. He had led them astray by the way he lived.
You have to understand that there are little eyes watching you all the time. And the way you live may influence those around you.
You moms and dads really need to be aware of this. Your kids will likely follow your footsteps. Why is it that Scripture says that the “sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the 3-4th generation? It’s because the children typically follow in the footsteps of their parents. They usually adopt the same patterns of sin.
The way you love your wife, the way you talk to your husband, the way you sigh or clench your fist—all of this is in full view of your children. All those acts are in full view of your kids. And you need to be aware that you could be tempting them. They may very well emulate the same kind of disrespect to their spouse when they group up.
How do you stop that though? Is there a way to keep that from happening? Of course there is. It is by openly acknowledging your sin. You are not likely going to be able to stop sinning. But you can confess it. If you have sinned against your wife and it was in full view of your family, then you should not only apologize to your wife, you should pull the kids aside and confess it to them. You should say, “Kids, daddy shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have spoken to mommy in that way.”
Jesus says that we have to go that extra mile. Sin is a serious thing, and if we are going to be followers of Christ, then this is the way we need to handle it. It needs to be acknowledged for the grievous thing that it is and openly confessed.
But not only must there be confession, we also need correction (or confrontation). We need to understand that it is not enough to acknowledge sin. We also have a responsibility to admonish one another.
II. Sin must be admonished.
In verse 3 Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves. If you brother sins, rebuke him.”
Now think about this. When someone offends us, what is our normal reaction? For a lot of people, our natural inclination is to storm off or clam up. We naturally shrink away from them. That’s not appropriate, though. Jesus says, if you see a brother in sin, then you need to come to rebuke that person. You need to confront them and address the sin that they have committed.
Now, there are others of you who hear a verse like this and you start licking your lips. You start salivating because you are a little more confrontational by nature. You think you now have a license to jump on anyone’s case.
Some people are just delighted to address someone’s sin. When they get offended they jump all over it. They will say, “I can’t believe you just did that! That is a horrible thing to do! Why I ought to…”
If you are in either of these two categories, then I want you to take note of this word “rebuke.” The word rebuke can be translated “raise the price” and “honor.” You know the passage that says, “Let the elders who rule well be worthy of double honor.” That’ the same root word. (No, it does not mean the elders are worthy of double rebuke. It can mean though that the elders are worthy of double raising of the price. J)
But think about that. When you are rebuking someone, we tend to think of it as a bad thing. It seems so negative. But when we rebuke them, what we are doing is actually a good thing. We are actually honoring them. We are seeking to raise their price. What we are trying to do is increase the value of their character.
When my wife and I moved to Ashland, we had to sell our home in Indiana. As we talked with the realtor, she tried to give us tips on how we could get the most money out of it. She said that if we did a few renovations, then we could increase the value of the home. But of course, you know what renovations entail. It means hammering, peeling off layers of wall paper, applying fresh coats of paint, and it involves a great amount of labor that you’d probably rather not do. But the lady said, if we took the time to give our house that kind of honor, we could raise the price.
That’s essentially what happens when you rebuke someone.
And for those of you who like to shy away from confrontation, this is important to understand. It might not be easy for you to come up to your brother. It might be laborious and extremely difficult. But if you think about it in this fashion (that you are seeking to bring them honor and raise the value of their character) then it puts that correction in a whole different light. You might be more willing to admonish them if you think of it in terms of honor.
And those of you who are more confrontational by nature. Thinking about rebukes as the equivalent of honor will help you know how to address the situation. It might be that it shapes when you address them. Maybe in the heat of the moment—when you are about ready to fly off the handle—may be that isn’t the best time to address the situation. Maybe you need to take some time to allow the situation to cool, and you can come back when you both are in a bit better frame of mind.
Or maybe it is just the tone you use. Or maybe it says simply reminds you that nagging is not appropriate form of correction. Nagging is a form of dishonor.
Confrontation isn’t easy. No matter how you look at it, it is hard. But if you think about it in these terms, then we can be more inclined to do it. We can deal with sin in a Christ honoring way.
But we can’t stop there. We need confession and we need confrontation. True enough. But we must not forget that we also need compassion.
III. Sin must be absolved.
In the rest of verse 3 Jesus talks about forgiving the person who wronged you. You’ll notice how this is taken to the next level here. It is one thing to rebuke someone. It is another thing to actually forgive them.
Sometimes it isn’t hard to rebuke people. If we are offended, we can easily say to someone. “Hey, you idiot! That wasn’t nice!” But we have no intention of actually forgiving them. We just want them to know they are wrong. They hurt us, and letting them know that they are wrong in doing that (and piling up a little guilt on them) is simply our way of getting vengeance.
But Christ wants us to realize that is not what we are to do. Vengeance is not a Christian virtue. But forgiveness is. And as you look at what he says here, you can understand the kind of the forgiveness we are to offer.
Real quickly, I’d like to point out three things about forgiveness.
The first thing you should understand is that our forgiveness needs to be immediate. It says, “If he repents, forgive him.” It is like one follows immediately after the other. As soon as the repentance happens, the forgiveness needs to follow right on the heels.
That’s probably hard for some of you. That’s because you don’t “feel” like forgiving them. You want them to hurt. You want them to suffer a little. After all, they made you suffer.
But remember that forgiveness is not to be based on whether or not you feel like forgiving someone. Forgiveness is a choice. And you can forgive someone even when you don’t feel like it. You want those feelings to come, of course. You want to be reconciled in every possible way so that there is no enmity between you whatsoever. But the feelings can follow the act. Christ said, “forgive,” and you can forgive and repent of your resentful feelings later.
But not only should your forgiveness be immediate, it should be perpetual.
Jesus goes on to say that if he sins 7 times and comes to you and repents 7 times, then you need to forgive him.
Now, of course, if the guy isn’t really repentant, that’s another story. We don’t want you to be gullible. If the guy is a rat and is taking advantage of you, then you tell him to get out of your face. But if it is genuine repentance—If the guy really is sorry for what he has done, then you have to forgive him every time.
Keep in mind that the Rabbi’s said that you only had to forgive someone 3 times. You were supposed to be considered really spiritual if you went that far. But Jesus takes that number, doubles it and adds one!
It’s no wonder that the disciples cry out, “Lord increase our faith!”
That leads to the last thing you have to understand about this forgiveness. It’s not just immediate, it’s not just perpetual, but it is gospel rooted.
Jesus says, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this tree be uprooted and planted in the sea.”
I’ll tell you, there once was a time when I didn’t really understand the point of this verse. When I was young I took this literally and I wanted to put this to the test. I was probably in Jr High or so. Somehow I had come across these words, and I thought I would see just how much faith I had. So I tried excommunicating a tree.
It was a summer day and I was out riding my bike in front of my house. I stopped and looked at the tree that was there in front of my house. It was a lot like those western movies where you have the two guys in a show down. I stared at that tree (and he stared back!). And I told that tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea!”
Well, it didn’t move. But that wasn’t going to stop me from believing. I told myself, “God’s timing isn’t my timing. I’m just going to believe that God’s going to do it.” That tree still didn’t budge. However, years later when I came home from college one weekend I noticed it was gone. I thought, “I did it!” and I’m pretty sure it is at the bottom of Lake Erie!
I have since learned that this passage isn’t about whether or not you can condemn maple trees. What its really about is the gospel. If you have faith in Christ, then you can do what is next to impossible. If you really believe that Christ has forgiven you—if you believe that Christ was thrown into the abyss of God’s wrath to atone for the multitude of your sins, then you can do what you could not otherwise do.
Forgiving someone who has hurt you deeply can very hard. Forgiving someone who has hurt you multiple times can be next to impossible. It can be as difficult as a tree pulling itself up out of the dirt and flinging itself into the ocean.
But the gospel changes all that. If you have faith in Christ, and if you understand the extent to which he forgives you, even in the smallest sense, then what seems impossible can in fact be done.
Forgiveness has to be rooted in the gospel. Otherwise you will never deal with sin the way God wants you to.
In hospitals you will always find a container with a funny symbol on it for items that are considered biohazards. These containers are to be used so that the items that are hazardous to people’s lives might not be put in danger. The contents in these containers are always sealed tightly. Special procedures are put in place to make sure that there are no leaks.
You might say that what Jesus says here is his formulary for dealing with the biohazard of sin. Sin is a biohazard. It puts lives in danger. And Jesus gives us these guidelines so that sin has no possibility of seeping out. So therefore, when it comes to sin, let us be mindful to acknowledge it, admonish it, and forgive it.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands in the Lord.” Col. 3:18
The idea of submission in today’s progressive culture is rather putrid. Feminism tells us that it is degrading and the universal trademark of inequality.
However, this is not so. If we really took such claims seriously, we would only use sporks at the dinner table.
No one advocates for the equality of spoons though. We recognize that, despite having the difference of shape and role, spoons are just as valuable as forks.
So it is with biblical womanhood.
Biblical femininity recognizes the supreme dignity of woman. She is just as equal to a man in regards to her humanity because she is created in the image of God. However, the Lord has endowed her with differences that make her unique. God has given her a shape and role that contributes to the vitality of a successful marriage.
She parallels the Trinity itself. Christ, being of the same substance with the Father, is equal to Him. Yet, Christ voluntarily submits to the Father in order to bring glory to His name.
Militant feminism attacks this idea and seeks to eradicate it. From the time they are school age children girls are taught that they are not to acknowledge any kind of hierarchy in the family. The stinging question is put to her each year, “What do you want to be when you grow up.”
The implication is, “You don’t want to be a wife and mother do you? You need to make something of yourself!”
It should not be surprising then, that so many marriages end in divorce today. One of the main contributors to this epidemic is the lack of godly submission in the home.
Today’s culture insists that woman are to find their identities in their career and their individuality. They are to see themselves as distinct from their husbands and in no ways bound to him. “I am woman! Hear me roar!” is her mantra.
This is not an equation that makes for a lasting marriage though. A union is begun with a separation. A divorce looms over the marriage from the very beginning because the two are never really bonded together as one, as God designed for couples.
In contrast, biblical womanhood naturally promotes lifelong marriages. In submitting to her husband she recognizes that her identity is not in her individuality. It is in her husband and everything that God has called him to be.
She remains bonded to him because she recognizes that she is incomplete without him. She knows she is to glory in him and revel in his headship. She looks to him as her loving authority and sees herself as his life-helper.
This godly submission seeks the welfare of the marriage in various ways. She understands her husband is not perfect, so she prays diligently for him. She counsels him with her wisdom, but never in a nagging way. That would drive him to the corner of the house, which is the last thing she wants.
She opens her mouth only at the proper time and with the utmost respect so as to draw him closer.
More than that, she knows when to hold her tongue. When it comes to his shortcomings, in no way does she highlight them. She covers them in love. Since her obedience is “in the Lord” she knows that there are times when this cannot always happen. However, when it comes to his minor foibles and personal defects, she is willing to overlook them.
In sum, her life is dedicated not to self-aggrandizement, but to the esteemed virtues of self-sacrifice and humility. In doing so, she promotes her husband, her marriage, and the glory of God.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.