Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 25
Thesis: Hold the feet of others to the fire gently.
Introduction: In our studies of Jesus' instructions to His disciples, we have seen that He is particularly focused upon having the character of His Father made manifest by means of the way His disciples treat others, particularly those "others" who are hateful and self-willed. In the setting into which Jesus injected His instruction, the "typical" world-view was highly "legal" and "graceless". This was the result of a long term distortion of the character of God in the direction of "Justice". At any time when a particular characteristic of God is emphasized and reemphasized, a distortion is going to happen. God is "holy", which means that He maintains a perfect balance between His attributes at all times. Justice is balanced by Grace. Love is balanced by Hate. Power is balanced by Wisdom. Compassion is balanced by Mercy. So, it is easy to understand that, in a "legal" distortion where everyone is pitilessly subjected to the consequences of their own sins, there is a potent need for the insertion of a "gracious" balance into the setting. Jesus wanted His disciples to be His instruments of regaining a legitimate balance.
These days we have swung on the pendulum of human imbalance from a heavily "legalized" world view to a heavily "libertine" world view where Justice is mocked all the day long. The text before us this morning has been victimized by the swing of this pendulum so much that the real character of the holy God has been lost from view by a vast majority of those living in this present American setting. It is my goal this morning to attempt to provide a way back to the balance of seeing God as He is so that we may live the Joy.
April 13, 2008
- I. The Text is Not About "Forgiveness".
- A. The difference between the translations.
- 1. The translators of the AV dropped the ball "big time".
- a. In the New Testament there are 69 uses of the word used by Jesus in this instruction.
- b. In the analysis of those 69 uses given by the Online Bible, we find that the translation "forgive" is only found in this verse.
- c. The implication is that the translators, who could see the difference between the concepts of the words as it is established by Matthew 18:27, simply dropped the ball.
- 2. The translators of the NASB sought to correct the problem.
- a. The translators of the NASB opted for the word "pardon" because it has the idea of "releasing someone from some of the consequences of their behavior" without the implications of "forgiveness".
- b. These translators read Matthew 18:27 correctly.
- 3. The translators of the NIV have returned us to the error.
- a. This is no small problem in our day because there is a huge confusion of the issues of "forgiveness" that leave people with a terrible and destructive view of God.
- 1) There are few doctrines more important (in terms of impact) than the teaching about forgiveness [It is, after all, forgiveness that allows a person access to the Kingdom of God].
- 2) We have to expect that the adversary will attack this concept unremittingly and with great subtlety.
- b. The bottom line in dealing with "God" is that we simply must understand Him if we are to relate to Him and live in His joy [There are three texts almost universally ignored by "Christians" these days: Psalm 1; Matthew 5:18; and Luke 4:4].
- B. The facts regarding the use of the word in the New Testament.
- 1. It is used a significant number of times to refer to the creation of significant "space" between two people by divorce [this is a long way from "forgiveness"].
- 2. It is used several times to the creation of significant "space" between Jesus and the crowds that followed Him incessantly as He "sent them away".
- 3. It is used of Pilate's "release" of Barabbas at the time when Jesus was being subjected to what is the greatest injustice in the history of the world.
- 4. The point is this: the word means "to put distance between two entities"; and the question of the kind of "distance" and of the "entities" involved is left up to the individual contexts.
- C. Thus, the issue of Jesus' meaning has to do with what kind of distance was He telling His disciples to create and what "entities" were involved.
- II. The Text is About Recreating a Legitimate Presentation of the Balance of the Character of God.
- A. In attempting to be "compassionate as our Father is compassionate", we must be clear on what He would feel in a given situation.
- 1. The issue in "compassion" is not what God would do in a given situation.
- 2. The issue is what God would feel: compassion is not about delivering; it is about feeling the upheaval of disaster.
- B. In attempting to be "compassionate as our Father is compassionate", we must also take steps to remove the blockages that we tend to erect to keep from feeling the disaster.
- 1. We must remove the tendency to be hypocritically judgmental.
- 2. We must remove the tendency to seek gain unjustly at another's expense.
- 3. We must remove the tendency to refuse Jesus' instruction at the point of our study this morning: pardon.
- III. The Text is About Legitimately Lifting Burdens.
- A. In our comments about "creating distance", we said that we need to understand what kind of distance Jesus meant.
- 1. The issues of the text involve two kinds of "undistance".
- a. One is the moral obligation that exists between all people all of the time.
- 1) It is illegitimate to be someone's enemy in the sense of the term in 6:35.
- 2) It is illegitimate to hate someone in the sense of 6:27.
- 3) It is illegitimate to borrow from someone with no intention or ability to repay.
- 4) All men in all times are bound to their moral obligations.
- b. One is the actual spatial proximity that exists between people who are capable of acting towards one another.
- 2. Clearly, then, the kind of distance that Jesus meant was not spatial distance where one does not have to deal with another, but, rather, the moral obligation issues.
- a. Technically, no one can separate another from their moral obligations.
- b. Practically, however, one can release another from the obligation to act legitimately in respect to oneself.
- 1) I can refuse to demand that my "enemy" treat me as a friend.
- 2) I can refuse to demand that those who hate me "love me".
- 3) I can refuse to demand that those who are in my debt "pay me back".
- B. The issue, as the lifting of the burdens of moral obligation in respect to me, is not about creating a distortion of "T"heology.
- 1. Believe it or not, God is not bent out of shape about the sins committed against Himself.
- a. God is, obviously, not reluctant to absorb the pain of sins committed against Him.
- b. God is simply not focused upon what happens to Him.
- 2. But, also, believe it or not, God is really bent out of shape about the sins committed against others.
- a. God, as the Cross plainly tells us, is absolutely willing to absorb the impact of our sins against Himself.
- b. But God, as eternal Gehenna tells us, is absolutely unwilling to tolerate the impact of sins against others indefinitely.
- 3. I am as much like God as I can be when the "problem" of the failure of moral obligation has its impact upon me and I "release" the perpetrator from his obligation.
- 4. I am not much like God, however, when I tolerate the failure of moral obligation when it has its impact upon others when I could do something about it.