A Pastor’s Ponderings: Forgiveness Takes the Sting Out of Sin

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Dave HollandBy Pastor David Holland

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.’

“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’”

“He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you.’” Luke 17: 1-7

Mouse Traps and Mustard Seeds
“Snap!” The mousetrap snatched the writhing creature. I hate mice. My favorite part is baiting the trap. Planning the murder is so exciting. I plotted to trap him, baited the snare, and now I have the filthy animal writhing in the clutches of my trap.

Christ warns His disciples in Luke 17:1-10 concerning the nasty trap of temptation.
The Greek word Christ uses for “sin” in this passage is scandalon, referring to the part of the trap where you attach the bait. It means “offense,” or “snare” and describes the behaviors that provoke others to sin.

Christ’s indictment is not on the sinner as much as the person who causes someone to stumble. He says it would be better for that person to have a millstone hung around their neck and thrown into the sea than to cause someone to falter. Judgment awaits those people.

Jesus warns us because our behavior can lead people to the Lord or drive them away. I think there are few Christians who wake up in the morning asking themselves, “How can I tempt others to sin today?” But people scrutinize our behavior every day, watching how we behave. Will they see real Christianity in action?

What about when you are the offended person? What do you do when you are tempted or hurt? The idea of forgiving the people who offended them overwhelmed the disciples. Forgive them seven times a day? Was Christ kidding?

No, Jesus wasn’t kidding. Jesus shows them the liberating power of forgiveness released through faith. Even faith as tiny as a mustard seed.

Jesus is saying He came to forgive all who come to Him. If you follow Jesus, you will need to learn to forgive. If you have enough faith to believe in the Lord, you have enough faith to forgive others. Forgiveness sets people free and displays real Christianity for all to see.

Rebecca Pippert tells the story in her book “Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World,” concerning one man’s demonstration of thoughtful love. She knew a young man named Bill who had become a Christian on her college campus in Oregon. He was a free spirit with long, messy hair, who never wore shoes, ever. Snow, sleet, or rain – he walked barefoot.

Bill soon attended the church across the street from the campus. He walked into the rather formal church wearing denim jeans, a T-shirt, and his signature look – no shoes. As he walked down the center aisle looking for a seat in the crowded church, none was available. So, he squatted down on the floor near the front pew as the service was about to begin.
Unnerved, the church people didn’t know what to do. Tension hung in the air as an elderly member began walking down the aisle toward the boy. What would he do? Scold him? Offer him his seat? Ask the young man to leave? All eyes focused on the silent drama unfolding before them.

The old man lumbered down the aisle, and when he reached Bill, he awkwardly plopped down on the carpet next to him. They worshiped together on the floor as people witnessed real love fleshed out before them. The elderly gentleman did what Christ would do in that situation, and it enveloped everyone in the loving arms of God.

We want our lives to draw people to Christ, to catch them in the net of God’s grace rather than the death-like snap of evil’s trap. We can choose to live in the grip of grace rather than temptation.

Faced with such forgiveness and love, the disciples cried out, “Increase our faith!”

Christ challenged them to faith as small as a mustard seed. These words throw me back over sixty years to a conversation I had with my mother. As a little boy, I remember my mother wearing a heart-shaped, glass necklace.

“Momma, why does your necklace have that speck of dirt in it?”

“Oh honey, that’s not dirt. It’s a precious mustard seed.”

“Why did they put it in there, Momma?”

“It reminds me to always have faith in God, no matter what happens. God will always bring me through.”

In the end, God is looking for people with faith. The Master desires followers who have the faith to forgive people, over and over – just as He does.

Dave Holland pastored churches for 38 years before retiring in Destin. He recently released his new devotional-Bible study based on the Gospel of Luke titled “Prodigal Jesus, Journey Back to the Father” You can get a copy of this book from his website, DaveHolland.org, or at Amazon.com. Pastor Dave is available to preach and teach in churches and conferences. Contact him at DavidvHolland54@gmail.com.

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