Note: In January 2011 my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I learned while on this life changing trip.
Our tour group was in Jerusalem on a Sunday morning. There were a number of other pastors in the group and originally one of them was supposed to preach in a special service that was arranged just for our group. But due to a last minute change of plans, the speaker was unable to participate. The group leader asked me on Saturday night if I might preach on Sunday morning. I obviously said YES, after all, how many times does a preacher from a small town in a small state like where I live get to preach in Jerusalem!!! I had little time to prepare, but sought the Spirit’s leading and was directed to Matthew 18:21-35, which is the story of the Unforgiving Servant.
After having spent several days in Israel witnessing the deep racial divides that are so prevalent there (click here to read my previous post about that) I decided to preach on the importance of forgiveness. After having a fellow pastor read from Matthew 18:21-35, I shared a testimony of how God taught me the importance of forgiveness. My testimony of learning forgiveness involves a near fatal accident my family experienced due to a drunk driver (click here to read a short version of that story). I then related the scriptures, and my own experience with forgiveness, to the situation I had observed in Israel. It was clear to everyone in our group that the Jews and Arabs have not offered each other forgiveness. Perhaps individuals within each group have offered forgiveness to other individuals in the other group, but as a whole, there has been no reconciliation of any kind between their two peoples. The ongoing friction of that reality keeps both of their cultures in a state of constant tension.
I completed my sermon by asking the group to consider how many individual Christians and/or churches have failed to offer forgiveness to someone who needed it. Could it be that the lack of forgiveness in our lives and our churches is the source of much of the internal turmoil and emotional conflict we experience? Only when we learn the importance of forgiveness can we move back into a place of joy, happiness and spiritual blessing.
Lord, help us grasp the importance of forgiveness today.