Tragedy of unforgiving spirit – communion service sermon
Scripture reading – Luke 23:33.34: “And when they had come to the place called
Hate wants to pay back and humiliate.
Hate and animosity go beyond “eye for eye” or “tooth for tooth” that are legal provisions of civil and criminal OT laws.
Revenge, hate, animosity, resentments, dislikes, shunning come all from the same spirit of pride and love of self (self-love eventually leads to self-hate). It’s opposite to God’s spirit of love.
Nailing Jesus to the cross, stripping Him of His clothes, have Him whipped and placed between two criminals was the end result of such attitudes developed by His opponents.
It usually starts as a small seed of
- suspicion or distrust
- dislike, resentment or prejudice
- feelings of being threatened
- person’s personality can remind us someone who hurt us in the past
This was the problem of Pharisees, scribes and priests with Jesus.
He was different and He wouldn’t fit into their agenda and mindset.
It started small and look where it led to 3 ½ years later! When Jesus was 12 years old and reasoned with the leaders in the temple, they admired Him and loved Him. When His teachings crossed their ways they began to resent Him. This grew into animosity and hate.
Unless we become aware of the very first onset/seeds of such feelings/thoughts, we get on the slippery slope toward tragic ends – unless this process is stopped and dealt with.
In His “Sermon on the mount” Jesus taught revolutionary truths for His time and they are revolutionary today!
Mat 5:21.22 NIV: “You have heard that it was said to the people long time ago, ‘Do not murder’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again anyone who says to his brother ‘Raca’ (expression of contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says ‘You fool’ (morally worthless), will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
In the book “T. M. of Blessings” the author quotes Leviticus 19:17.18: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. …You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus turns the tables upside down: The problem is not the other person who is a sinner like you.
The problem is your attitude toward him/her!
It is self-focused thinking versus Christ and love-focused mindset.
In their seminar “How to Die Right and Live to tell About It” Clarence and Dianna Schilts share the story of father whose son got murdered.
After some time when the father was asked whether he forgave the murderer of his son he replied: “he is a non-person to me”. Once sharing his story with prisoners during the prison ministry visit the prisoners asked him the same question: “Have you forgiven the murderer?” He answered again, “He is a non-person to me, as far as I am concerned he does not exist.” Prisoners got all over him: “You never forgave him!” (Eventually he did forgive but only after Holy Spirit really convinced him and brought him to genuine repentance.)
Brothers and sisters it is neither natural nor even possible for us to forgive the way Jesus calls us to forgive and love the way He loves.
1st Christian martyr Stephen filled with the Spirit of Christ had this love – Acts 7:59.60:
“And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep (died).”
I think of another story recorded in the OT.
David committed some terrible things that hurt both God and others.
- He used Bathsheba who was a wife of one of his most valiant army officers
- He plotted and ordered have Uriah killed in a battle along with others
- He involved his top military leader to do that dirty thing
- Then he took Bathsheba as his wife
Now Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel.
And Ahithophel the grandfather of Bathsheba was David’s gifted counselor in his court.
He served the king faithfully or so we would think.
Now there was also Absalom who was a son of David. And he took justice into his own hands, having his half brother Amnon murdered – because Amnon raped Absalom’s sister Tamar.
For 2 years Absalom concealed and nurtured his bitter feelings against Amnon in his heart and then it blew out into a murder. David failed to deal with the issue and stuffed it “under the carpet” as we would say. (When we don’t deal with any unpleasant issues thoroughly and work toward reconciliation they will only fester and blow out in a huge and ugly way somewhere else and later on.)
David eventually forgave Absalom and there seemed to be reconciliation between Absalom and David or so it would seem
We wouldn’t know what feelings, thoughts and attitudes were hidden in Absalom’s or Ahithophel’s heart until rebellion of Absalom, David’s son against his father broke out.
Have you heard the saying, “the birds of the same kind flock together”?
Both Absalom and Ahithophel never really got over David’s sins, failures and inconsistencies that offended or hurt them.
2 men with same kinds of negative unhappy feelings held on and bottled inside joined in to take their revenge on unsuspecting David – David another sinner long time forgiven and accepted by God.
Dear brothers and sisters whatever seeds of resentment, grudge or unhappy feelings toward others we allow in our minds they never stay stagnant.
They fester in our hearts until they mature and then blow out into some nasty actions.
Besides they eat out in our minds, hearts and souls confusing our conscience and causing numberless damage to our mental, emotional, spiritual and yes also physical well being.
Optional: I think of Paul’s experience recorded in Acts 23:1–5 (read)
There is a big difference between how he reacted to humiliation and injustice!
We all react or overreact or get angry at times and do foolish things. But Paul dealt with it and moved on.
Wrong actions or words of others hurt.
What makes all the difference is how we deal with these hurts.
Jesus and Stephen forgave and prayed for their tormentors and murderers.
Absalom and Ahithophel held on their grievances which eventually broke out into revenge – one was killed, the 2nd one took his own life.
Dear friends, what is in our hearts will grow and bring fruit after its own kind. Concealed resentments, grudges and animosity will burst out one day affecting others and eventually destroying ourselves. Seeds of bitterness must be uprooted and sooner the better!
This is why Jesus commands us to forgive how many times? 70 x 7.
In the parable of unforgiving servant Jesus concludes in Matthew 18:35: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart does not forgive his brother.”
Before His crucifixion in the upper room Jesus met with His elite group of 12 disciples.
At that time a self-seeking group, each sensitive to their own selves at odds with one another, proud to serve one another!
One already sold His Lord for 30 pieces of silver tingling in his pouch.
Another one was to deny Him soon with cursing, caving to fear, pride and cowardice.
All will leave Jesus to save their own lives. Jesus knows what will take place!
Does Jesus nurture hurt or disappointed feelings?
Gospel of John 13 tells us what takes place. Jesus as a servant stoops down and begins to wash their dirty smelly feet.
Jesus shows the full extend of His love – John 13:2.
Forgiveness “from the heart” extended to us and then by us, isn’t an option.
It is modeled by Jesus and it is a key commandment in both Testaments.
Genuine forgiveness is love and grace unveiled and it can only come from transformed hearts where Jesus lives.
Ephesians 4:31.32 NIV put it this way: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Colossians 3:13 NIV: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Does Lord forgive partially and keep us at a distance thus reminding us of our sins?
Dear friend(s) how is it with your soul today?
As a faith community we participate in this ordinance of humility passed on to us by Jesus Christ Himself.
We do it as a preparatory service before coming to the Lord’s Table to partake of the emblems of Lord’s broken body and spilled blood.