Luke 17:3-10: “Forgiveness, Faith, and Service”
“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him. And the disciples said to the LORD, increase our faith! And the LORD said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?’
“He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So, you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves, we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17:3-10, NASB).
When teaching, preaching, or studying the Word of God, there are passages that really need no deep analysis or meaning of what is plainly written. The teachings that the Lord Jesus gives to His disciples in these passages are clear and straightforward. When a follower of Christ does or says something that is in conflict with what is expected of him according to Scripture against another believer, the attitude of the offender should be one of repentance and a desire to perform restitution towards the person that he offended or wronged. There is no need to discover some deep theological meaning behind what is obvious and clear. True followers of Jesus Christ should have an attitude of forgiveness towards one another for the mistakes, errors of judgment, or times where the flesh has gotten the better nature of them and they say or do something that is not in line with their normal behavior or attitude.
It can be difficult to accept an apology or repair a broken trust between each other, no matter how spiritual we seem. It can be difficult not to hold a grudge or let go of something that someone did to them back when dirt was first invented, and they have not gotten over it. Because people did not either repent of a wrong done in the body of Christ or make amends, or ask for forgiveness and then drop the issue altogether, too many churches have split or closed altogether over the years and have ruined whatever witness they had in the town or area.
Due to misunderstandings, cruel words, gossip, deceitful tactics to keep a position of power in a church, or playing the game of calling a pastor every two years only to run them off for the slightest error, too many people have been burned and hurt by churches and now avoid anything to do with the Gospel; and the devil smugly places another notch of evil on his belt.
Jesus says to first rebuke the erring brother or sister, establish forgiveness and correction between them, then carry on and let it go. Life is too short to tear apart the fellowship and love that should be a major trait of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Everyone in history has been wronged at some point in their lives, and that is just a fact of life no matter how devout you are. No one is exempt from unkind words or deeds, but it shows maturity and a development of character that is in short supply to rise above the pettiness and shallow nature of the behavior and plain sinful nature of fallen men. Grudges and a lack of forgiveness and the necessity to carry on with one’s life is not a burden I would personally wish to carry with me all my life.
No one in history has ever been more wronged than the Lord Jesus or has been the target of rank hatred as He was when He was beaten senseless and nailed to a cross and suffered such as no one has ever experienced in the annals of civilization. He endured insults from the crowds and the ridicule of the religious officials who had accused Him of blasphemy and other false charges in order to get rid of Him. The Roman soldiers had mocked and beaten Him as well, and even one of the thieves that was crucified beside Him mocked and slandered Him. This was no ordinary teacher they were attempting to kill off and bury, but it was and is God in the flesh come down from heaven to be one of us and to take our place as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
He took the punishment upon Himself that we deserve for our rebellion and reprobate behavior throughout history. We deserve eternal punishment in hell, but He died to keep us from having to pay our sin debt that can never be redeemed in our fallen nature. We cannot save ourselves in any way, shape, or form save through the intercession of the Lord Jesus, plain and simple, like it or not.
From the cross, the Lord Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were participating in the act of murdering Him. He prayed for His enemies. He allowed His fallen creation to treat Him this way, while having the authority and power to call down a multitude of angels to rescue Him and put everyone living on the earth to death. He had every right and the authority to say one word and render creation gone. He had every right to begin anew and throw the rebellious angels into the hell He had made for them (Matt. 25:41).
Considering that the Lord Jesus has the power to shut every mouth, stop every heartbeat, and every act of inhaling of every one of us, how in the blue blazes do we even think we have the right to question or demand answers from Him as to why things do not go as planned, or why tragedies happen, or declare that we have been wronged and demand justice or revenge? When He gave the parable of the two sons (Luke 15:11-31), He was teaching that in spite of what seemed to be an unforgiveable attitude of the prodigal, the love, graciousness, and open arms of the loving Father were there to welcome this repentant son home and wipe the slate clean.
I have had a lot of wrongs and hurtful episodes come my way in my time on this globe. Some years ago, I held both a grudge and a bad attitude towards one church and its blatantly ungodly behavior in the way they had run off a new pastor for reasons that bordered on the ridiculous. I kept this incident in the back of my mind and dwelt on it for some time until I came to realize that no one was benefitting from it, and it was a hinderance to future relations with churches and true brethren who operated in a spirit of love and concern as the Lord Jesus would expect. I had better things to do than dwell on an incident that I could not alter or change and decided to leave the issue in God’s hands. He could handle it far better and settle it once and for all.
I am not naïve. I am perfectly aware that many of you have had some terrible things happen to you at the hands of people both reprobate and allegedly redeemed. It hurt, brought about a lot of anger, resentment, and unresolved issues that have been left to twist in the wind and be nursed by bitter memories and the sense that someone needs to pay. It seems that we who call ourselves Christians spend a lot of time shooting our wounded instead of fighting the devil who has been the unseen culprit and the cause of our troubles and deviant actions. Still, we need to imitate our Lord Jesus and follow His guidance in settling the issues, rebuking the wrongs and restoring the relationships that we should emulate as His followers.
He will have the last word and will righteously judge all people, settle all disputes, right all wrongs, give justice to the oppressed and abused, punish the guilty, and make all things new. His word declares this, He has promised this, and He will bring it to pass as He has declared. Lay your hurt and tears at the foot of the cross, and then leave them there. We have other work to do as the time approaches for us to depart this troubled world and meet Him in the air. He expects no less.
Any wrong that has been done to us is no excuse on our part to stop doing the work that the LORD expects of us if we say that we are really His followers. I have said many times in previous studies that when you surrender your life to Christ, He owns you from that point on and may do with you as He pleases. This can involve placing you in new situations with new responsibilities and get you out of your “comfort zone” for you to be in the center of His sovereign will. You are His servant, not His advisor, and you do not argue with Him since He made you in the first place and does know what is best for you. Trust Him to make you into a fit vessel, ready to do His bidding.
He graciously bestows gifts and talents upon us to be used in presenting the Gospel to a world that is racked with confusion, lack of direction, purpose, and heading in a direction that will result in eternal misery and torment if not for the intervention of Christ and the message of salvation that He has entrusted to us to proclaim. The specific task He has given you may bring about sacrifice of those things we consider precious and valuable or bring about the end of a relationship. It may mean a variety of hardships and difficulties.
None of the apostles had it easy, and all died as martyrs for the cause of Christ, and all came to the end of their lives in horrendous ways, save for John, and he ended his days in a penal colony. Paul talked about his hardships to the church at Corinth. Stories abound of people called to mission posts in nations and among hostile tribes and territories bringing the message of Jesus Christ only to have their lives taken or to undergo suffering that we cannot imagine.
Preachers and evangelists have taken the Gospel to cities, countries, and remote areas in this nation and the nations of their origin, such as Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Sam Jones, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and others who surrendered all they were and all they had in order to serve the Master and King of Kings. Men and women who owned businesses, taught in schools and universities, did manual labor, ruled in courts of law, practiced medicine, made clothing, made furniture, and who were craftsmen of every type of trade and skill have been graciously used by the Lord Jesus to be instruments of His grace and mercy throughout history.
No one who has been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ is without a use, purpose, talent, gift, or calling. We are to be His servants here in this world and the one to come. We have the privilege of serving our great Redeemer, Creator, and Sovereign. We know Him personally and can come to Him at any time for advice, comfort, and reassurance that we are in the center of His divine plan and objective. We have a benevolent Master who loves us, cares for us, and sees to our well-being. He will never leave or forsake us, and He will not leave us in the dirt when we fall.
We should not expect thanks or lavish praises for the jobs we do, but be thankful that He loves and trusts us, and that He has us in His hands, never to let go. We are His friends as well as His servants, recipients of crowns for service and duty that we will place at His feet when we are gathered around His throne the day we are caught up to meet Him in the air.
The Lord Jesus Christ has made it possible for you to enter into His kingdom and dwell in His saving presence for all time, with the promise of peace, forgiveness of sin, assurance of eternal life, freedom from the pain and sin of this present world, and the assurance that He loves you now and always. Repent of your sins and wicked behavior, call upon Him to save and redeem you, and surrender to Him as Lord and Savior this day. He waits with open arms.