Life Together in a World of Retaliation (Ephesians 4.32)


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INTERACTING WITH THE SERMON
SYNOPSIS OF THE SERMON
In this week’s sermon Pastor Rich preached about forgiveness. The message began by suggesting that forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. “If Christianity is about anything, it is about forgiveness. Not forgiveness as a way of escaping punishment, but forgiveness as reconciliation and total restoration. Forgiveness which restores the broken relationship between God and people. And forgiveness which has the capacity to achieve peace and reconciliation among all human relationships whether personal or global.” Forgiveness is easy, C.S. Lewis said, until you have something to forgive. We often take many paths other than forgiveness, but Pastor Rich warned “that no alternative to forgiveness will heal us or open the possibility to restored relationship”. To help with confusion surrounding acts of forgiveness, we learned three things forgiveness is and is not. Forgiveness is not forgetting; Forgiveness is practicing non-remembrance. Forgiveness is not a 1-time act; Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness is not the absence of consequences; Forgiveness is breaking the law of action and reaction. We can only begin the process of forgiveness when we begin with honesty – like David in the Psalms. Then we are encouraged to embrace empathy and humility – through prayer and recognizing our own shortcomings and failures. We conclude with tapping into the power of Christ – who helps us go beyond our own limits. When we cut the process short, or fail to forgive, we remain chained to the injustice(s) we suffered in the past.
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.

GETTING THE CONVERSATION STARTED
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
• Was there anything Pastor Rich said in his sermon that stood out to you? Briefly share.
• Have you ever been caught up in someone else’s feud? If so, how did you respond? Briefly share.
• On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your family, or extended family, on their willingness to fully forgive? If you have a funny anecdote, please share briefly.

SCRIPTURE STUDY

READ MATTHEW 18:21-35 (TNIV):
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Context: Forgiveness is at the heart of Christ’s message for the world, and for his followers. He desired to form a new community (Titus 2:14) transformed from the inside out. He desired not just external behavioral modification but new life from the heart (Luke 6:45). His hope is that we would look different from the world around us (see Matt 5-7). To emphasize just how serious Jesus was on the question of forgiveness – we read hard and challenging texts like Matt 6:14-15 – 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Whether we’re seeking Christ, new to Faith, or mature believers – we can not understand the Christian message apart from forgiveness nor should we neglect its implications.

As you look at this text, read Matt 18:15-20 for context. Jesus has just given the disciples a mini tutorial on how to solve conflict. Particularly, he instructs them about the process. The implications are apparent – we must forgive. Perhaps, Jesus is attempting to draw a different conclusion (v. 19-20) with the hope of encouraging the disciples, but Peter as usual, misses it.

• (v. 21) What is Peter’s question? What’s at the heart of his question? (a. how much do I really have to forgive). Does 7 times seem like a lot – it did to Peter? What’s the problem with putting a number on it? (a. there is a limit).
• Jesus is constantly exposing how little we get it, and how much he wants of us. In what other areas of life do you see yourself saying “really God, you really want me to do that?
• (v. 22) How does Jesus reply? Possibly in a slight tease, Jesus says “don’t even think about counting”. Leaders Note – if you want to study this passage further, particularly this verse, consider listening/reading Pastor Rich’s sermon on Matt 18 from last year – pg 7 – link.
• (vv 23-37) Summarize this part of the story. Who are the characters? What stands out to you? How significant was the debt? (a talent was 20 years worth of laborer’s earnings)
• What’s wrong in v. 26? Is it possible to pay of the debt? What happens in us when we try to earn our salvation, or earn God’s favor? Please share an example of how you might act with the same mindset as this servant?
• Are there limits to God’s forgiveness? What causes you to you consciously tap into the reality and depth of Christ’s love and forgiveness? What fruit does it produce in you, when you live in that reality? Please share a brief story.
• (vv 28-30) Summarize this part of the story? It’s crazy, right? (This sum of Denarii would be equal to a few dollars) Why then do we do the same thing all the time?
• How can we embrace not just a basic comprehension of forgiveness, but a faithful practice of it?
• (vv 32-35) How serious is the King (Christ) at this point? What happens to us, in this life, if we fail to embrace a faithful practice of forgiveness? What happens to us eternally?
• NT Wright has a great metaphor – “Forgiveness is like air in your lungs. There’s only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life they may so desperately need , you won’t be able to take any more in yourself, and you will suffocate very quickly.

MINISTRY APPLICATION

Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.

• As a group, take some time to meditate in silence about God and after several moments take time to share any words or pictures people may have received from the Lord.
• Gather in small groups of 2 or 3 and share any places you are wrestling with the issue of forgiveness. Just share the basic details, don’t attempt to prove a case. Then ask others to pray that you God would reveal again the limitless well of His forgiveness and love?
• If there is something you’ve done that you have not expressed forgiveness in the ways we learned in the sermon this week, seek prayer to have the courage to seek it out
• If there are wounds that still come in waves, pray that you will have the courage to enter the process of forgiveness. Invite one or two others in your story and ask God’s Spirit to meet you. “I tell you that if 2 of you agree on earth about anything you ask for, it will be don for you by my father in heaven. For where tow are three come together in my name, there am I will them”.
• If there is something that feels “too big” for you to deal with in one evening, consider meeting with someone you trust and be faithful to revisit and seek God’s heart in that issue in the next week.