How Much Must I Forgive? (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

Pastor Rich preached a sermon in response to Peter’s question of Jesus – (paraphrase) “how far must I go in my forgiveness of others?” How far do we push this Christian forgiveness theme? How bad do things have to get before we say, “Enough, no more forgiveness”? He contrasted the world of Lamech (law and justice) and the world of Jesus (grace and forgiveness). If we start with the un-repayable debt we owe God – we reconnect with the source of forgiveness. Without starting there we can’t even imagine a world of grace and forgiveness – we act like the manager believing we can somehow make it right (pay back the debt). The challenge of this message is not to be Christian-like in our forgiveness, but to be Christ-like.
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

1. Can you think of a great movie about forgiveness/reconciliation? What particularly was appealing about the movie? Please share why.
2. Do different personalities respond differently to being hurt? Is there a personality type that forgives more easily? What would you say about yourself, and why?
3. Have you ever been the recipient of much forgiveness?

1. In 5 minutes or less. Briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
2. Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21:
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
· What does Paul indicate is his reason for attempting to persuade the people? (vv. 11-12) How are your motivations for sharing Christ with others similar? Are they different? How do you believe one’s motivations for sharing Christ impact the receptiveness of the hearer? Can you share a personal experience where your heart motivation negatively or positively impacted the success of an evangelistic effort?
· What do you believe might have caused people to believe that Paul and Timothy were “out of their minds”? (v. 13) Have you ever been misunderstood or faced criticism because of your faith? How did you respond? What can we learn from Paul’s response to this issue? Thinking back to this week’s sermon on forgiveness, how might choosing to forgive seem “crazy” to unbelievers?
· When was the last time you felt compelled by the love of Christ? (v. 14) Describe that experience. Do you think being “compelled by the love of Christ” describes your daily interactions with others?
· In verse 15, Paul states that Christ died that we would live for Him, not for ourselves. What do you think it means to live for Christ, not for yourself? How does your life reflect this principle?
· What do you believe it means to view people “from a worldly point of view”? (v.16) What is the alternative that Paul is suggesting? Consider all of the ways that life is different as a “new creation” in Christ. (v.17) Is there any aspect of life that isn’t affected by new life in Christ?
· Describe the “ministry” and “message of reconciliation”. (v. 18-19) How might a Christian’s personal experience of being reconciled to God impact his/her relationships with others? How might this impact our ability to love and forgive others?
· How often do you think of yourself as an “ambassador” for Christ? (vv. 20-21) How do you feel about the fact that you were meant to represent Christ to others? Do you feel that you are up to the task? Why or why not? Can you think of some passages of Scripture that might help us when we’re not feeling like a very good representative of Christ?

3. In his sermon, Pastor Rich quoted Brian Zahnd, who wrote in his book, “Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness”, that “You can become a Christian in a moment. But to become Christ-like is another matter. In our evangelical churches we are very adept at teaching people how to become a Christian – how to receive the forgiveness available in Christ. We’ve not been nearly so adept at teaching people how to become Christian – how to become Christ-like in a way that helps flood a world hell-bent on vengeance with the grace of forgiveness.”

· Does this quote resonate with you? As a small group, consider some ways that you can cultivate this kind of Christ-likeness in your lives.
· Ask the Holy Spirit to increase your capacity for forgiveness towards others in your small group and in your community. Encourage one another to truly represent Christ to the world around you.