The Hard Thing
Forgive even when it’s hard
Duffel bag loaded with heavy objects such as books or bricks or boards. Set it in a prominent place, close to where the children gather.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
Hey, what’s that bag doing in the middle of the sanctuary? That doesn’t belong here. Could you move that out of the way, please? Take it down to the storage closet. What’s the matter? You can’t move it? Why not? What do you mean it’s too hard?
Have you noticed that God sometimes asks us to do the difficult things? Why do you suppose He wants us to do things that are hard for us?
Jesus taught a lot of hard things during His time on earth. In His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, He taught a lot of things that were opposite to the ways of the people. They were opposite to the ways of the religious leaders. But Jesus was teaching about a different society. He wanted the people to learn about the Kingdom of God—He wanted them to know this is a different world where people live in peace and help one another. He wanted the people to know that they could see this Kingdom on earth if they lived by God’s principles.
We’ve talked many times about the most important commandments: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. If God wants you to love Him with everything you have, how do you think you’ll do that? How will you love your neighbor as yourself?
One of the ways to love God is to forgive. When your brother or sister or your even best friend hurts you, Jesus says forgive them. Oh, that’s hard, isn’t it? Maybe you want to get back at them and make sure they hurt too, but Jesus says forgiving is better. He says that God will forgive the things you do when you forgive those who hurt you. Maybe you think what your sister did is just the most wrong thing that could ever be done. Doesn’t matter…Jesus says do the hard thing. Forgive her.
Jesus says love your neighbor. Does that just mean the lady who lives down the street? No, the word neighbor means one who is nearby. Who is near you right now? That person is your neighbor. You will have lots of "neighbors" today. And God says to love them—even if you don’t know them. You may have neighbors who annoy you. Maybe they are loud or messy. Jesus says, "That doesn’t matter--love them anyway." If you get angry or hold a grudge against your neighbors, will you be loving them? Jesus asks you to do the hard thing. He says look beyond their noise and their messes. Forgive them. And as you forgive the hurts and bothers that others do to you, you will be loving them…as God loves you…with a forgiving love…even when you hurt or bother Him. Let’s pray.
Dear Father, help us to forgive one another as you forgive us. Amen.