Friday, November 16, 2018

Enough Faith to Forgive

"The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).

Jesus’ stern teaching at the beginning of Luke 17 frightened the disciples. He warned them that offenses are bound to come, but “woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves” (Luke 17:1–3).

Then, illustrating the meaning of causing people to stumble, Jesus commanded His disciples to forgive anyone who repents, even if the same person sins and repents seven times a day. Seven is the number for completeness, so Jesus was saying that we must forgive an infinite number of times if necessary.

The disciples realized how hard it is in real life to forgive people who have wronged us deeply, even when they ask for forgiveness. Thus, the apostles said, “Lord, increase our faith!” Considerable trust in God is needed to be able to forgive. If we do not forgive, our hardheartedness may cause a little one to stumble.

Jesus told the disciples that their faith was already strong enough. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (v. 6). In other words, even a small amount of faith can work wonders. Jesus was saying: “Don’t tell Me your faith is not strong enough to carry out My commandments. The slightest bit of faith is all that is needed to forgive people.”

We cannot be Christians unless we believe in our hearts that we are forgiven. Faith starts with repentance and forgiveness, so if we have any faith at all, we have enough faith to forgive others. The kingdom starts with forgiveness and spreads the same way.

For those who have learned the grace of forgiving others, there may yet be another aspect to learn. Some Christians cannot forgive themselves. As harsh as the judgment may be, these people are discrediting the Word of God. By holding themselves still accountable, they press for more rigorous standards than does God in His Word. If this is true of you, ask God to forgive you for not forgiving yourself.