Thursday, June 11, 2015

HOW ARE JESUS' FOLLOWERS TO RESPOND TO THOSE WHO WRONG OR HURT THEM? In Matthew 28 Jesus commanded His followers to follow specific and detailed steps for rebuking the one who sinned against them with the goal of reconciliation (winning their brother). Ultimately if the sinner refuses to repent, Jesus commanded the church to expel and shun them (cf 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Romans 16:17, 18; Titus 3:10, 11). In that setting Jesus promised to answer the prayers of two or three gathered in His Name and promised His special presence. These verses (Matthew 18:18-20) are in the context of the command to confront and to shun -- in other words, the promises were given to believers who are being obedient to Jesus' directives for confronting sin. It is His answer to the question, "After I have rebuked and shunned them, what do I do?" Jesus said: "Pray . . . in partnership with others gathered in My Name." Perhaps we don't see more people restored in answer to prayer because we have not been willing to first enact Jesus' clear "steps" for rebuking. Next Jesus told the startling story about the unforgiving servant with the powerful lessons that we must forgive because God has forgiven us and we must forgive or else God will not forgive us. I will never be able to forgive from my heart till I understand that my debt to God is the $12 million debt in the story compared to the sins of others against me represented by the $20 debt in the story. However, in the passage, it is clear that our forgiveness, LIKE GOD'S is for those who repent (see Luke 17:3, 4). God does not forgive everyone -- only those who repent and believe. This is not license to hold bitterness or seek vengeance. On the contrary, although Jesus never commanded His followers to forgive unrepentant sinners, He did mandate that they love their enemies, pray for them, bless them, and do good to them (Luke 6:27, 28) and Paul adds that they are never to retaliate or seek revenge but rather are to repay evil with good, even feeding and giving drink to their unrepentant "enemies" (Romans 12:17-21). For a much fuller presentation of all this including practical suggestions on forgiving those who hurt us, see the video sermon at

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