Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
This morning we continue studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unforgiving.”
It is remarkable, is it not, that Paul puts an unwillingness to forgive in such disreputable company? Paul joins it with these other undesirables: undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. Is being unforgiving really so bad?
Now, of course, we think so when we are on the receiving end of a lack of forgiveness. When we have wronged another, been convicted of our wrong, and then humbled ourselves, apologized, and sought forgiveness, only to be scorned or rejected, we know that being unforgiving is a bad thing. To be unforgiving, we conclude at such moments, is to be proud and disagreeable; it is to fail to see one’s own need for forgiveness from others. Yes, we say to ourselves, being unforgiving should be in that disreputable list.
But when the shoe is on the other foot, we are inclined to delete it from the list, aren’t we? When we are refusing to forgive another, we have a hard time seeing why it is so wrong. We excuse our refusal to forgive. “He wronged me; she mistreated me; she wounded me deeply; he abandoned me; if you only knew how many times he has lied to me; if you only knew how many times she has berated me; if you only knew how often he ignored me; if you only knew…” But Jesus cuts across our excuses, does He not, with the parable of the unforgiving servant?
There was once a servant who owed his king a massive sum, ten thousand talents, a sum that he could never repay. So the king ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had. But the servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” So the king listened to his plea, had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt.
But that servant went out and abused one of his fellow servants who likewise was in his debt, though for not nearly as much. His fellow servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” But the servant was not willing; he had him thrown in prison until all was repaid. So his fellow servants reported what he had done to the king and the king was angry. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?” (Mt 18:32-33)
That impulse, that refusal to forgive when others are in our debt, is to forget or to ignore how much we all are in need of forgiveness. So what of you? Are you unforgiving? When folks seek your forgiveness, do you willingly grant it, rejoicing with them in the forgiving grace of God that covers both your sins? Or do you hold on to their sin, nursing it in your heart, letting it fester and grow into bitterness, resentment, anger, and perhaps even revenge?
Reminded of our calling to be a forgiving people, who imitate our Heavenly Father in our treatment of one another, let us confess that we are often unforgiving. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel before the Lord as we seek His mercy. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.