October 1, 2023

A Portrait of Love


Love is Patient

How we respond when we come into contact with other sinners is the real measure of our spiritual maturity. We all fall short, but God calls us to be patient, or long-suffering, which is the opposite of being irritable, and especially resentful. How do we grow in love?

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Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to First Corinthians, Chapter 13. First Corinthians 13. And we’re going to be looking this morning at verses 4 through 7 once again, and again next Lords Day. It’s just a lot to be mined out here. I want to read those to you to set them in your mind. First Corinthians 13 and verse 4: 

Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Some of you have been coming out on Wednesday evenings and enjoying our study as we look at the history of Christianity in America, and one of the things that Stephen Nichols highlights in that is that the weaknesses that we see even in our present day are due to the fact that the church so often goes along with the culture–the culture influences the church. And it is that issue that has caused the gospel to be presented in a man-centered way, and evangelicalism has largely followed the path of American individualism–that rugged John Wayne mentality, the Lone Ranger, right? And that’s expressed in the phrase that you need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Now, it’s indeed true that what we need is indeed a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. But the word personal in that statement is ypically meant in our minds, to say something like it’s a me and Jesus relationship. It’s my individual relationship with Jesus, just between the two of us. I want to be clear. God does have a personal relationship with individuals. No one becomes a child of God because their grandparents or their parents were Christians. But when we speak of a personal relationship with Jesus, we’re not speaking of something just between you and Jesus. We’re speaking about the nature of that relationship. It’s a personal relationship in the sense that you can know God personally through the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s exactly how Jesus defined eternal life. In John 17:3 he said, this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent, right? And so, to have a personal relationship with Jesus is to know God personally. God is not some distant force somewhere out there in the universe. He’s a person, and we’re created in his image, which means that we can have a personal relationship with him. But far from meaning a me and Jesus kind of thing, once we come to know God in this personal way, we actually come to know everyone who knows him. We’re united with everyone who knows the Lord Jesus. In fact, remember in chapter 12, verse 13 we were told there that we’re united to the Lord Jesus in a special way and therefore we’re united with everyone who’s united with him. We’re part of that body of Christ and we’re members of one another. We are individuals, but we are vitally connected to one another because we’re vitally connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, this means that we don’t merely have an individual relationship with God. We actually have a corporate relationship with God in a sense. It’s not a me and Jesus relationship, it’s a you and me and Jesus relationship. We’re in this together and we grow together. And for too long, this individualistic view of the Christian life has led Christians to think that spiritual growth happens best when I’m alone with my Bible (you know, that’s when I really grow), and that the measure of my holiness is how well I know the Bible and how much time I spend in personal prayer and personal holiness and my personal walk with the Lord and my personal thought life and all of those kind of things. But let me tell you, the Bible actually says that the real test of our spiritual maturity comes when we come into contact with other people. That’s the real test. Just a few days ago, Rob Brunansky, who’s the pastor of Desert Hills Bible Church in Glendale (where Bill and Sherry Carter, who we’re going to be saying farewell today to, are going to be visiting and probably attending there)–he wrote in the Cripplegate blog an article entitled The Character of Love, and of course that caught my attention this past week, and in that article, Pastor Brunansky says this:

It is often easy to act in a way that seems holy when we are alone. (Let me read that again.) It is often easy to act in a way that seems holy when we are alone. When our preferences are not challenged, when our desires are not at odds with the desires of others, when our opinions reign supreme, when the only person we discuss what to do with is ourselves – it is much easier to appear holy than when we collide with other people and their preferences, their desires, their opinions, and their decisions. Our sanctification is put to the test in relationship with other Christians. These are the fires that test the mettle of our holiness. 

What a great quote. How true. Love is the fabric of any relationship and the reason we see such a breakdown in relationships and society at large–in the family, in the church, of all places where this should be a place of sweet unity–is because of a failure to love. We may think of ourselves as doing pretty well when we define our spiritual maturity based on the extent of our Bible knowledge and our time spent in prayer and so forth. But while all of those things are certainly vital to our growth and to our Christian life, the real test, again, comes when we come in contact with others. 

As we saw last Lord’s Day, while love is typically defined as an emotion that overtakes us and can change over time due to circumstances, genuine love, according to the Bible, is actually a choice. It’s a decision of the will. It’s a choice to humble oneself, to get the focus off myself and onto others, to not insist on my own way, but to prefer others above myself. It’s a choice to imitate God, as we saw, both in the nature of his love and in the demonstration of his love. It’s a choice to define love on God’s terms, to recognize that God sets the bounds of what love is according to his truth. And finally, we saw that it is ultimately a choice to be filled with the Spirit, because love is the crowning aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. And if you don’t have the Spirit, if you’ve never been born of the Spirit, you’ve never truly loved. The choice to love will manifest itself in action. That’s what we see in these verses. That’s what we have in verses 4 through 7. It’s a list, not composed of adjectives describing what love is per se, even though it comes across that way typically in our English versions, but rather it is a list of verbs that describe what love does, verbs that are in the present tense. This is what love always does unconditionally. This is what love looks like when it is applied, and it is what we could call a portrait of love. There are fifteen verbal descriptions here that are like colors put to a canvas and they seem to just overlap, and yet they break down in my estimation, into three sections. And what I see here in verses 4 through 5 is what we could call the properties of love. The properties of love, or the characteristics of love. And then in verse 6 we have these two that are directly contrasted, and I call these the parameters of love. They’re the ones that, remember, set the guardrails on love. And then the final four in verse 7 highlight the persistence of love. And these three aspects of love give us that full portrait, or description, of what love looks like. But there’s so much here, and the more I dig into this passage, the more I mine out. And so, this morning we’re just going to actually wade into that first one, the properties of love, and we’re just going to look at verses 4 through 5. And rather than a random list of descriptions, as they’re often said to be, I believe these work together (like I said) to create this composite picture of love. And the first two are the positive aspects of love and they correspond to one another. One is the passive aspect of love; the other is the more active. And then the seven negative aspects that follow them down to verse five, they serve to sort of elucidate the two by showing their contrast. They’re all negatives if you notice. And so, they show the contrast. It’s sometimes better to define things by saying what it’s not. Here’s what it is. And it’s not this. And that gives us a clearer focus of what it really is. And you remember that the descriptor that falls right in the middle of all fifteen is the one that says love does not insist on its own way. And these negative descriptions, I think all of them, show us what patience and kindness look like when they do not allow the sinful flesh to have its way. When we get over ourselves. 

And so, let’s look at that first description of love this morning. Love is patient. This is a compound word which literally means long-passioned. The King James version really captured it well with that idea of being long-suffering. Love suffers long. It’s really the idea of putting up with others. Putting up with others. It’s having a long fuse. That’s really the word picture that’s captured in this word. When others put a roadblock in the path of me getting my own way, I don’t blow up at them, but I bear with them in a spirit of gentleness. That’s patience. And this is the word that’s used throughout the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew phrase which means slow to anger in that oft-repeated description of God’s character throughout the Old Testament as we noted last Lord’s Day. So, when people frustrate us, or even sin against us, we’re able to remember how patient the Lord is, and was, and continues to be to us, and we are to imitate his patience. Ephesians 4:2 says that the way we live in a manner that is consistent with the way God has dealt with us is to do so with all humility and gentleness and patience (listen), bearing with one another in love. Bearing with one another, putting up with one another in love. One of my favorite verses in the entire New Testament is First Thessalonians 5:14 that says each of us is to admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with them all. See, different people need different things from us, but the one thing they all need is our patience, our forbearing spirit. 

I want you to know that the last two negatives in verse six (I’m sorry, in verse 5) enlarge on what it means to be patient. I want you to note those. These enlarge on this idea of patience and the first one says, love is not irritable. It’s not irritable. It’s the idea of not being easily provoked to anger. You know, each of us is usually provoked to anger when someone does something or says something we don’t like, or doesn’t do something or say something that we want them to, right? And it’s interesting to me that Jerry Bridges (as insightful as he was), he names impatience and irritability together in his list of respectable sins in his book by that title (that I believe the ladies are going through right now), and he explains the link between them. He says this:

While impatience is a strong sense of annoyance or exasperation, irritability, as I define it, describes the frequency of impatience or the ease with which a person can become impatient over the slightest provocation. The person who easily and frequently becomes impatient is an irritable person. 

Irritable person, irritability. Irritability (listen folks) is a form of self-focus. It’s a form of insisting on my own way that reveals itself in being overly sensitive. Your feelings get hurt over just about anything. When anything gets in your way, you get upset. And typically, it’s because you’re looking for something to get your feelings upset about because you’re overly focused on yourself so that you interpret things that are said or not said or done or not done to be meant as offenses toward you. When really folks, you’re not that important. It’s not like everybody in the world is just thinking, how can I irritate you today? You’re not that important. You see how self-focused this is? Love has a long fuse. It’s long-suffering. Not a short fuse, it suffers long. It doesn’t blow up over every little thing. It’s not easily provoked to anger. That’s what it means to be patient. 

But notice the next one in the list, and this is the one that we’re going to spend the remainder of our time on. Love is also not resentful. Love is not resentful. The word here is actually a really rich word, and it happens to be my favorite word in the Greek language. It’s the word logidzomai. It’s just fun to say: logidzomai. It’s an accounting term which means to keep a record or a tally, and figuratively it means to think on or consider or ponder, or my personal favorite is reckon. You’ll see it translated that way in the King James Bible. I used to tell kids, hey, listen, you want to learn a Greek word? You stand like this with your, you know, your thumbs in your pockets and you say, logidzomai, you know, logidzomai. You think about those old cowboys, I reckon. I reckon, I reckon means I guess, you know? I guess so. I consider it to be true. That’s what it means. And really though, the word here captures the idea of keeping a record, a tally. It’s like keeping the books (hat accounting idea of it). The text literally reads like this, love does not account evil (or wrongdoing). And the KJV, if you have that, it says it thinks no evil. That idea is in there, but it can be misleading. I think the NASB captures it better when it says, it does not take into account a wrong suffered. But my favorite translation is the NIV which says, it keeps no record of wrongs. That’s a great translation. It keeps no record of wrongs. And the ESV’s resentful kind of combines all of that with one word. Resentful, perhaps a better rendering, maybe the best in our modern vernacular would be this: that love does not hold a grudge. Love doesn’t hold a grudge. It’s not keeping track of people’s wrongs against us. There are some people, you know, who don’t blow up, but it’s not because they’re not easily offended. They just bottle it up. And they are just inside fomenting. But the one who is not resentful doesn’t allow himself inwardly to foment over wrongs done, whether they’re real or perceived. Instead of keeping a record of wrongs, the opposite of that is to forgive. You see, the one who loves forgives. 

Forgiveness is mandatory for the Christian. And the Greek word translated forgiveness most frequently in the New Testament literally means to release from legal or moral obligation or consequence. Those who keep a record of wrongs fail to forgive, and they will not release others from their faults. They hang on to them, and they keep a record of them, and they continue to hold them against the person who has hurt them. This is where the figurative aspect of that word, logidzomai, comes into play, because keeping a record of wrongs doesn’t mean that we actually have a little tally book in our pocket where we’re writing down what people have done to us, but what it does mean is that we’re constantly thinking about them. We just can’t let them go. We stew over them. And soon we become embittered against them. Now I don’t know what someone may have done to you. Someone may have done some terrible, terrible things to you, so I say this with all gentleness and compassion. But I do want to say it because it is true according to the word of God: that the truth of God’s word is that the failure to forgive is just another indication of self-focus. It’s insisting on having my own way. That’s where lack of forgiveness comes from. It’s a negative focus, but nevertheless, the one who refuses to release others from wrongs and insists on holding them against them is focused on themself. It’s all about me again. I’ve been hurt and I deserve to hang on to this hurt, and that person deserves to pay. 

Well, what’s the remedy for that? How can we learn to stop keeping a record of wrongs and truly forgive others? Well, the answer is that we do what the Bible says. We remind ourselves of what God has done and continues to do for us. And even before we approach the transaction of forgiveness with the other person, forgiveness is first and foremost an issue that we must settle in our hearts before God. It’s really not between me and the other person first and foremost, it’s really between me and God. Second Corinthians 5:19 says that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. Guess what that word counting is? Logidzomai. Logidzomai. What a cool word. Psalm 32, 1 through 2, that’s quoted by Paul in Romans Chapter 4, verses 7 through 8, says, Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no (you recognize) this word? Logidzomai is the word that’s translated or spoken of in terms of imputation. It’s the word that’s used to speak of our justification. You see, we are sinners who are the enemies of God, and we deserve eternal damnation. And yet God doesn’t logidzomai our sins. He doesn’t count them against us. He actually counted them against Christ and he punished him in our place. And now our record is not just clear and innocent, but we have been given, we have been accounted, God logidzomai’s righteousness to our account. So, he no longer thinks of us according to our sin. He thinks of us according to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Amazing grace. 

And forgiveness is a promise to us from God. It’s a specific promise. In Isaiah 43:25 ,God says this: I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. And in the new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31:34, he says again, I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more. Now one of the attributes that’s clearly taught in the word of God is that God is omniscient. He knows everything all the time. God never forgets anything. So, what does he mean when he says I will remember their sins no more? It means this: that he actively chooses never to bring them up against us again. He doesn’t bring them up against us and he doesn’t think about us that way anymore. He’s chosen to set them as far as the east is from the west, as some 103:12 says. He’s chosen to bury them in the deepest sea (Micah 7:19). You see, we stop holding a grudge, we stop being resentful toward others who have hurt us by remembering that God chooses not to remember our sins. Colossians 3:13 says that if anyone has a complaint against another we are to forgive each other, As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. That’s Colossians 3:13. Our forgiveness toward others is to be the same kind of forgiveness the Lord has extended to us. We are to choose not to bring those things before us any longer. We are to choose not to keep a record of wrongs. And when doing that, just like God doesn’t bring them up to others or to himself, we’re not to bring them up to others or to the offended party or to ourselves. And that’s the hardest one on the list, isn’t it? We can maybe keep quiet about it, not bring it up to others, but trying not to think on the wrongs that others do to us is difficult. And this is an issue of the heart that can be very difficult because, even though in Matthew 18:15 through 20 our Lord Jesus outlined the steps that we’re supposed to take to confront another brother, at least, who sins against us, even though that’s the case, there will be times when we may not be able to reconcile with the one who hurt us. And so that hurt lingers. It’s never really dealt with. But regardless of whether we’re able to complete that relational transaction of forgiveness or not, we’re commanded to have an attitude of forgiveness toward everyone who may offend us. And ultimately, it’s because we do not have the right to hold anything against anyone. That may sound radical. It certainly sounds radical to the world. I mean, the world is looking to be the victim at every turn, right? There’s always an oppressor out there that’s victimizing me. But even to Christians, this may seem radical. But we do not have the right to hold anything against anyone. And you know, the Lord Jesus Christ illustrated this for us. 

I want you to turn to Matthew 18 with me, if you would. I just want to take a moment to look at this wonderful parable of the Lord. I mentioned Matthew 18 just a minute ago, about Jesus outlining how we’re to deal with someone who sins against us. We are to confront them. Matthew 15:18, 15 through 20–the Lord Jesus gives us the steps there, but just after laying down that instruction of what to do when a brother sins, Peter (of course it’s Peter, right?)–he asked this question: Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him, as many as seven times? Peter’s question has to do with how far our forgiveness is to go. What measure of forgiveness must we extend to others? And he poses this hypothetical situation to the Lord. How many times? Seven times? You see, the rabbis taught that a person was to be forgiven three times, and after three times you didn’t have to forgive them again. And Peter knows this. He knows the Lord knows this, and he probably thinks that the Lord’s going to think, wow, Peter is really generous because he’s willing to go up to seven, right? Or maybe he remembered what Jesus had taught on another occasion, because Luke 17:4 says that Jesus said to his disciples, if your brother sins against you seven times in a day and turns to you seven times, saying I repent, you must forgive him. So maybe he’s saying, alright Lord, I’ll match your seven. But here our Lord shocks Peter with the answer of not seven times, but seventy times seven. And that phrase could be translated either seventy-seven times or it could be a multiplier that would mean 490 times. But the point is clear. Jesus is s not putting some cap on the measure of forgiveness. We’re not to keep a record of wrongs. That’s Jesus point. He’s saying that it’s the very thing you can’t do. Forgiveness must be unlimited. Unlimited. That’s what he’s saying. He’s speaking in hyperbolic terms. And again, that sounds radical and Jesus knows this, and so he proceeds to tell this parable that explains what our motive for forgiveness is to be. And remember, a parable is a true to life story that conveys a spiritual truth. And this parable tells us about how things are to work in the Kingdom of God. This is how a Christian is supposed to function when someone sins against us. It’s like a kingdom in which there’s a king who wishes to settle his accounts with his servants. And there’s one brought before him who owes him 10,000 talents. Since this is such a large sum, this servant may have been a tax collector who embezzled money or something like that, and the king is saying this has got to be made right. A talent is a measure of money. We use the word talent to talk about, you know, our natural giftings and things like that. This is a measure of money and even to us today, 10,000 sounds like a whole lot. But this is more than a whole lot because just like our currency, the value of a talent fluctuated and there are various estimates of what the exact amount would be in our day. But the word 10,000 is actually murios, from which we get our word myriad. And it was used as we use that word to really talk about sort of an innumerable number. And so, Jesus’ point is that this man owed what we could say is, like, a bazillion dollars. This is more money than you could ever pay back in your lifetime. Or ten lifetimes. It’s an incalculable debt. So, he can’t pay it back, and the only recourse the king has for this servant who owes the bazillion dollars here is to sell his servant and his family and his possessions and demand that the man spend the rest of his life working for him to pay it off, you know, at least a minuscule amount of it. And so, the servant did the only thing he could do. He got on his knees, and he begged for mercy. Notice verse 27, out of pity for him, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt. He begs and pleads for mercy, and this master gives him amazing mercy and grace. He grants it. And this is a picture of God, who’s rich in mercy and abounding in loving kindness towards sinners who owe an infinite debt to him. That’s the point. And when we beg for that in a sincere way, the Lord grants it. 

If the story had ended here, it would be beautiful. If the man was sincere, it would have been a beautiful end to the parable, but Jesus has a point to make, and so it takes an ugly turn. Because the first thing this servant does is go out and find one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying pay what you owe. It seems that this servant had some kind of side racket going on, possibly using his position to embezzle money, and then loaning it out to his fellow servants and charging them interest and so forth. And now just to put it into perspective, the servant who had been forgiven by the king 10,000 talents, or the bazillion dollars calls this man to pay back what he owes, and it’s 100 denarii. A denarii (well, if you put it this way), a talent was about 6000 denarii and the denarii was an average day’s wage. So, 100 denarii was no small amount. It represents a real debt that was owed. It was a debt that would have taken about 100 days to pay, okay. So, it would have taken, you know, 1/3 of a year to pay this off. So, this wasn’t, you know, a minuscule thing necessarily. But in comparison, the comparison that the Lord is making is that there’s this incalculable debt that had been forgiven the servant by the king. And it would have taken multiple lifetimes to pay off. And now this fellow servant is being held to account for something minuscule in comparison. So the fellow servant does the same thing that this servant did before the king. He falls down before his fellow servant, and he begs and pleads. But what does the servant do? He refuses to forgive and he has him put in prison. And of course, the other fellow servants who probably owed him money as well, are greatly distressed and they run and tell the king what had happened here and the king now summons him and confronts him. And we see in verses 32 and 33, he says to him, you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me, and should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you? And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers (literally, the torturers) until he should pay all his debt. 

You can’t miss the point of this parable. The motive, the basis for our obligation to put no limit on our forgiveness of others is that we have been forgiven an infinite debt by the Lord, and no offense against us, no matter how bad it may be, even compares to what the Lord has forgiven us. And he’s forgiven it fully and freely. We could put it this way: that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. Colossians 3:13, again, says, as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. In the same way, if you’ve been forgiven an incalculable debt, you have no right to withhold forgiveness from others. You must forgive. And Jesus makes the point crystal clear in verse 35. Notice that: so also my Heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from the heart. You see, if we refuse to forgive, what does that say about us? Well, Jesus is not saying that a person will lose their salvation because they refuse to forgive. But perhaps a refusal to forgive that turns to bitterness and is never resolved in the heart of the one who claims to be a believer is evidence that they never really were a believer in the first place. Because if you can’t forgive, you don’t understand how much you need forgiveness and how much you really have been forgiven. But Jesus’ point in this parable is that we all struggle to forgive. Obviously, that’s the point of Peter, right? He’s like, wait, seriously, Lord? I mean, how far do we take this? And Jesus’ point is that we’re all going to struggle to forgive. But if we refuse to forgive, we’re sinning, and God is going to deal with us accordingly. 

So let me just ask a follow-up question, since I just laid a big heavy dose upon you all, because I see the weight in your eyes. What exactly does the Lord require of us? Well, some would say that we’re not obligated to forgive until the offender repents and seeks forgiveness. But notice Jesus says in verse 35 that we must forgive from the heart. And that certainly means that our forgiveness must be genuine. But I think it means more than that because in Mark 11:25, here are some other words of our Lord where he says whenever you stand praying, forgive if you have anything against anyone so that your father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. He says, when you’re standing praying, forgive anything that’s on your mind, any record of wrongs that you’ve been tallying up. Forgive it right then and there. And when he taught the disciples to pray in Luke 11:4, he directed them to include this: forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Forgiving from the heart (listen) means that we have an attitude of forgiveness. It means what we find in that little phrase there in First Corinthians 13 that we don’t keep a record of wrongs. We guard our hearts from ever believing that we would have the right to do so. And when we fail to do this, we allow bitterness to take hold, don’t we? I mean, really this is a grace from the Lord. Not only is it forbidden for us to do this because it’s antithetical to the gospel, but it’s also a grace from the Lord to command us to forgive. Because if we don’t forgive, we’re the ones who wind up suffering. We become bitter and jaded and angry at the world. And it’s like someone said, bitterness is like drinking poison and then waiting for the other person to die. We are the ones who suffer. And so, this is a grace from the Lord, just like when he says, don’t be anxious about anything. Are you serious? It’s a sin to be anxious. That’s a scary thought. And yet, isn’t it a grace? Wow, it’s a sin to be anxious, so I’m not supposed to do that. And it motivates us to put on what we’re supposed to: dependence on the Lord. And the same with forgiveness. I’m not supposed to keep a record of wrongs, and this is awful and a horrible weight I carry, and I can just release that and I can give it to the Lord. 

But you know, there is a difference between having a heart of forgiveness and a transaction of forgiveness that must take place in order for a relationship to be restored. You see, Jesus isn’t teaching here, yeah, just forgive and forget. It’s all good. Now, we do that before the Lord. We forgive. We can’t forget our hurts either, but we choose not to think on them and we don’t bring them up anymore. And yet at the same time, in order for a relationship to go forward, we must complete this transaction of reconciliation. The offense has to be dealt with. And so, there’s a difference between loving someone and trusting that person. So, Jesus isn’t commanding us here, that, you know, if the person is not willing to repent and seek restoration and ask for our forgiveness, we’re not commanded to just sweep it under the rug and go on like nothing happened. It wouldn’t be good for them to do that. That’s why he says in verses 15 through 20 to actually go and confront them. And if they don’t listen, then take two or three witnesses. And if they don’t listen, take the church. And if they don’t listen, then remove them from the fellowship and don’t eat with them anymore. Because ultimately, it’s for the good of the brother. And so only when they seek your forgiveness are you called to restore that relationship. And this is difficult because there will be times where we won’t be able to do that. There will be those who never seek that reconciliation. There will be those who die and we never were able to deal with the issue. And so, the Lord says, best case scenario: you forgive them in your heart and they seek restoration and you’re reconciled and you move forward. But even if they don’t, we are commanded to have a heart of forgiveness. We are not permitted to keep a record of wrongs, to have a little tally in our hearts of all the things those people have done to us. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. You know, this is the reason the Lord continually calls us back to this table: to remind us that we have been forgiven. To remind us what he did for us. Again, back to that wonderful word, logidzomai, right? That the father took my sin, and he counted it as belonging to Jesus and he punished him instead of me, in my place so that my account could not just go to zero, but (he’s not just that kind)–but he takes that perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus, who’s the perfect portrait of everything we see in verses 4 through 7, who lived a perfect life, who, whenever he came up against sinful human beings, always did what was right, never thought of himself, walked down those steps of humility, taking upon humanity, and living rejected, and ultimately going to the cross for us–he takes that righteousness and he credits it to my account. It’s amazing. And it all came together at the cross. Let’s bow together. 

Father, we are overwhelmed by what you have done for us: forgiving an infinite debt at the cross, where your justice and mercy met in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died in our place and who rose again victorious over the grave and now offers us eternal life, which is to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Father, what a mercy, what a grace. I pray that our hearts are swelling with joy and peace and thanksgiving as we worship you, even in the midst of the misery of this sin-cursed world, and especially our own sinfulness. May we be reminded this morning of all that you’ve done for us and worship you now, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.