Saturday, June 21, 2014

According To Luke: Which Is Easier?

Luke 5:17-26    (NRSV)
One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

How many times does Jesus tell us that we must forgive somebody?
          1 time?
          2 times?
          7 times?

That’s what Jesus says in Luke
Luke 17:4 (The Message)
“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”

But in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says we should forgive not seven times but seventy times seven.

That’s a lot of forgiveness!

Hardly a day goes by without us having the question of forgiveness coming up
          Should we forgive?
          Is it worth it?

How does one measure or value forgiveness?
          What is it that makes forgiving somebody worth it?

Is forgiveness based on the response of the person who hurt you?
And if their remorse and tears and admission of guilt are sufficient, do we then feel that our forgiveness is deserved and justifiable?

Or is forgiveness based on how much you and I value the person who hurt us?
If so, then what is the basis of that value?

Or is it even worth forgiving somebody?
"It isn't worth it, forgiving her.  She betrayed my love and trust, it is finished between us!"
You could fell the deep pain and anger in the bitter story of his partner's infidelity.
"It's not the first time.  It's not worth it at all and what's done is done, it can't be fixed.”

Is it worth it when the offender doesn't accept responsibility or doesn't show remorse or respond the way we think they should?

Or is forgiveness not worth it if the offender is a "dirty rotten scoundrel?"
--- and when it's certainly not close to being their first offense.

Tough questions --- that for certain.

What worth did Pope John Paul II see in Mehmet Ali Agca to forgive him for his brazen assassination attempt?

What worth did Elie Wiesel and so many others see in the Nazi prison guards to forgive them for their cruel captivity and treatment in the concentration camp?

What worth did Jesus see in the soldiers to forgive them for humiliating, mistreating and crucifying him?

What worth does God see in you and me to forgive us for the wrong we do time and time again?

The big question today --- and every day is: What is required for forgiveness?

I have been taught my whole life that the only way that God will forgive me is if I repent.
          Isn’t that what you have been taught?

          Only if I am contrite and admit my sin --- my failure

          Only then will God forgive me

Our passage this morning was one of those that I had to read two or three times.

Did you listen carefully as it was read?

One day while Jesus was in the Galilee, by the sea, some of the Religious leaders came to hear and see what he was doing.

Some people brought a friend of theirs who was paralyzed --- hoping to get close to Jesus so that he might be healed.

Because there were so many people --- they could not get close to Jesus.  So they climbed up on a roof and let him down to where Jesus was

When Jesus sees what they have done he says:
          “Friend, I forgive your sins.”

WAIT A MINUTE . . . Something is missing here

That’s not how forgiveness works!!!

Forgiveness requires us to confess first --- this man never confessed --- never was sorry --- never even asked for forgiveness.
All he wanted was to be healed --- and he got even more than he hoped for!

You see in God’s understanding forgiveness is not a reasonable calculation or equation based on any personal merit or measure of response.

Forgiveness is always an act of undeserved grace based only on who we are as human beings, individuals valued by God who made us in God’s image.

God’s forgiveness is ridiculous.

But it is exactly what Jesus taught us.

Remember when Peter suggested to Jesus that seven times should be more than generous in forgiveness.
Seven being a perfect number in God’s economy --- that seemed more than enough

Jesus response went way beyond anything even Peter could imagine
          Way beyond what seemed to be a perfect level of forgiveness

Jesus said that God’s forgiveness has NO LIMITS and our story this morning tell us that it is offered unconditionally

And if God so generously forgives his errant creatures who are we to act as if those who offend us are not worthy of our forgiveness even though God will forgive them.

There is a great story about Dr Wilson, a Christian Physician and once head of the psychiatric department at Duke University.

One of his patients was a Vietnam veteran who had been non-functioning for years.
While serving in Vietnam he had been responsible for the deaths of many people

A number of people on the staff believed that much of his illness rested in his inability to forgive himself.

One day Dr Wilson came in to see the man, as he sat on his bed Dr Wilson said: “I want to tell you that your sins are forgiven.”

“What did you say?” the patient asked.

“I have the authority to tell you through Jesus Christ that your sins are forgiven.” Dr Wilson proclaimed.

Following that exchange the man began to get better and later returned to live a normal and healthy life.

So which is easier?

To heal somebody or to forgive their sins?

The truth is neither is easy --- but most of us do not have the ability to physically heal somebody --- but what we do have --- it is ability to forgive!

In the name of Jesus Christ ---- I tell you --- Your sins are forgiven!

Forgive me now, 'cause I,
Have been unfaithful;
Don't ask me why, 'cause I don't know;
So many times I've tried,
But was unable ...
Now I'm in our secret place,
Alone in Your embrace,
Where all my wrongs have been erased;
You have forgiven,
All the promises and lies,
All the times I compromised,
All the times You were denied...
(From "Forgiveness" by Skillet)

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