Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the gospel of Luke; I will read it so you can know what I will talk about. Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So, the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise, when you have done all the things you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
As you see in the ten verses, Luke tells us about four things.
1. Being the cause of someone else's sin.
2. About forgiveness
3. About Faith
4. About obedient
I want to speak about the second part, which is forgiveness. I mentioned forgiving someone’s mistake in one of my sermons, I think, three weeks ago, but today, I want to focus on just forgiveness, an issue that we as humans have a problem with and suffer a lot from forgiving someone. In this passage, Jesus delivers a profound message about the essence of forgiveness. He says, "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."
Forgiveness is an essential aspect of our spiritual journey. It’s not merely an act of pardoning someone's wrongdoings; it's a transformative process that brings healing and restoration to both the offender and the offended. Jesus doesn’t set limits on forgiveness but instead emphasizes its boundlessness. Saying seven times a day means an indescribable amount beyond words and numbers because forgiveness isn’t a one-time act but a continuous, unwavering commitment.
I will be honest and agree that sometimes it’s not easy to forgive; when someone hurts us, people do terrible, evil things. Even fellow believers are capable of hurting us in profound ways. But do you know how many times God has forgiven the Jewish people when they came out of Egypt? Do you know how many times God has forgiven our sins that we have committed against him, against our friends, or anyone else? I have a question for you: Do you say the Lord’s Prayer at least once daily? For a moment, let’s admit that our mistake in our life is that we cannot forgive those who have wronged us, and we don’t have any sin. But in the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In this sentence, we already have lied. Forgiveness is a reflection of God's unconditional love and mercy towards us. Just as God forgives us despite our shortcomings, He calls us to extend that same forgiveness to others. Because when we forgive someone, it frees us from the chains of bitterness and resentment. When we hold onto grudges, we carry a heavy burden that weighs down our hearts and hinders our spiritual growth. Forgiveness liberates us from this weight, allowing us to experience true peace. Forgiveness involves not holding someone’s sin against them in a way that strains the relationship or creates enmity between individuals. We may never forget the way someone has wronged us. It doesn’t erase the pain caused, nor does it always rebuild broken trust immediately. It’s a process that requires effort and time; in this part, we must work mostly. The progress of forgiveness and cleaning that enmity from our hearts and souls starts here; being Christian or trying to be Christian begins here. It’s easy to say in words, “I forgive you.”, but in reality, we didn’t forgive them in our hearts, our brains.
When someone sins against us, if we’ve forgiven them, we don’t bring back the previous sin as an added offense. Their debt has been erased, the score has been settled, and they are free from guilt.
In a world filled with conflicts and misunderstandings, practicing forgiveness is a radical act of love. It’s a decision to break the cycle of hurt and retaliation. It's a step towards reconciliation and restoration of relationships.
We must never forget that it’s not easy, but at the same time, it’s not impossible. God knows what we are capable of and are not; it just requires time and meditation.
As we say, long story short, we can speak for hours and days about this. Let’s not forget that forgiveness brings healing and peace, which we need most these days. As we are going to welcome the New Year, my wish and prayer for you is that we can have the strength and wisdom to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. I want to end my sermon with the following verse, which is taken from the Letter of St. Paul to Ephesians, “Put away from you all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, and malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4.31-32).