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Pentecost 18

“Teaching Children Forgiveness”


Matt. 18:21-35
Sept. 14, 2008

“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not
forgive your brother from your heart.” Matt. 18:35

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.


Driving these days can be, draining, difficult, and downright
dangerous. Perhaps that’s why God made bumper stickers—to make our
drive, and our day, a bit more delightful.
Like the one that says “Honk if you love peace and quiet”; or “Give
me ambiguity, or give me something else.” Some bumper stickers poke fun
at spouses—like “Get a new car for your spouse—it will be a great trade.”
Some are directed at Christians—like the one that reads “Christians—Can’t
live with them, Can’t fee them to the lions anymore.”
Some Christians battle back by putting the symbol of the fish—which stands
for Jesus—gobbling the smaller fish with legs representing Darwinism. One
person must have tired of that fight—for on their car they had the symbol of
the fish and inside of it was written “N Chips”.
There is one bumper sticker that I especially like—it says “If you can
read this, thank a teacher.” That’s true—and we do give thanks for teachers,
who have taught us the three r’s as well as many other things in life. But as
we know in our country today teachers cannot teach the Bible, or faith, or
ethics, or forgiveness—at least not from a Christian perspective. Perhaps
that is not SO bad—for God has placed this responsibility in our laps. It is
your calling, dear Christians, to teach God’s children. To teach them His

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Word, and the truths contained therein—chief among them is the forgiveness
of sins in Christ Jesus—the doctrine of justification.
We hear of forgiveness in all three lessons for today. We also hear of
forgiveness throughout the divine service, and receive forgiveness in the
absolution and in Holy communion, and even pray about forgiveness in the
prayer our Lord taught us. Clearly, forgiveness in the name and for the sake
of Christ is central to the Christian faith, as St. John says, I am writing to
you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His names sake.
So what are we to teach concerning forgiveness? Let’s look at the
Gospel lesson and find out.
It begins with Peter’s question: “How often will my brother sin
against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Peter thought he was being generous—for the Jewish rabbis only
required that you forgive someone three times. But Jesus’ answer—seventy
times seven” clearly conveys the message that forgiveness is unlimited.
Why? Because the love of God in Christ Jesus and the length and breadth
and depth of His atoning sacrifice on the cross has no limits. It must be like
this in order to overcome the debt of sin. And that is what Jesus teaches us
by telling the parable that follows. In it we meet a man, a servant, who is in
debt WAY over his head. Ten thousand talents is more than he could ever
hope to earn in one hundred lifetimes. His situation was similar to us
assuming the national debt. Simply beyond the possibility of repayment.
In fact, we are all born into this kind of debt. We are born into sin, as
David makes clear in Psalm 51—“Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in
sin did my mother conceive me”, and we can never repay that debt to sin—
and what’s worse, it just keeps on accumulating. It is folly for the servant to
think that he can work hard to repay the king—just as it is pure folly for us

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to think that our works done in faith can somehow pay what we owe God.
There are consequences for sin. For the servant it was to be sold along with
his wife and family. There are consequences for our sin as well. And this,
dear friends, needs to be taught to our children as well.
Somehow our society has gotten the idea that there shouldn’t be
consequences for disobedience or bad behavior. This week I was talking to
one of our teachers here at PWC. I asked her how it was going—and she got
a concerned look on her face and said, “I spend most of my time disciplining
the children.” Teachers wouldn’t be wasting time on disciplining children if
parents were doing so at home. Discipline and consequences of bad
behavior and disobedience are not a bad thing. In fact, just the opposite.
The book of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines those He loves.
In the OT account of Joseph we see numerous examples of this.
Joseph sins by being arrogant towards his brothers—and as a result he gets
sold to Egypt. His brothers sin in their jealousy and hatred of Joseph, and
they are faced with the eventual consequences of being entirely at his mercy.
A good parent will tell you that teaching children minor consequences at an
early age will spare them from suffering dire consequences later in life. (I’m
sure we all have stories we could tell about teaching our children about
consequences. Allow me to share one of mine--illustration of malt ball
stealing in the supermarket)
There are temporal consequences for sin, and also eternal
consequences—for the wages of sin is death. Both need to be taught—in
part for the purpose of raising godly children—and in part to help them
understand and appreciate forgiveness.

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Before we go any further, we should clarify what forgiveness is—and what it
isn’t. Forgiveness does not mean that sin is ignored or tolerated. It does not
mean that God is placing His seal of approval on the thoughts, words or
actions that are contrary to His will and hurtful to self and others. Nor does
it mean that when one is forgiven they will then live perfect lives or never
sin again. What it means is that our sins, and their consequences, are done
away with, wiped away, blotted out. Scripture makes it clear that in Christ
Jesus God was forgiving men’s sins, not holding them against us.
That is what the king’s actions illustrate. He declared the servant
completely free from his debt. This is what Jesus did for us on the cross.
We were declared absolutely free—as we are assured in 2 Cor. 5-- God was
reconciling the world to Himself in Christ Jesus, not holding our sins
against us. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in
him we might become the righteousness of God.
This is the promise made by Christ and sealed in His blood. His
forgiveness is a gift, just like it was for the servant. A gift delivered first
hand by God through the crucified hands of His Son, delivered personally
into our hands through His Body, and into our mouths through His blood, a
gift poured out over our heads in baptism and poured into our hearts as His
Words penetrate our ears.
This good news of justification in Jesus is not taught in our country’s
classrooms—not even in some Christian churches--but it is taught here.
This week FED began—dear friends, I really pray that at some point all of
God’s people at PWC would begin to appreciate this time, a time devoted to
growing in God’s Word and being taught the truth of His Gospel-- and take
time every Wednesday to attend. It was great for me to be with the

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confirmation students. Each year I begin class by stressing the importance
of coming to class—but also of making regular church attendance a habit.
One of the children said “But pastor, you don’t have to come to church to
believe in God.” That’s what a lot of people—even Christian people—think.
So we spent time talking about the benefits one receives in church that they
don’t receive outside of the church. One of those benefits is hearing the
Gospel—Having the Holy Spirit working in the hearts and lives of God’s
people through the promises here proclaimed. Receiving the gifts of His
salvation in His Word and sacraments. Children, of all ages, are taught
forgiveness by receiving it themselves.
They learn of forgiveness in many ways, such as learning to pray. We
all know the Lord’s prayer—think for a moment about the fifth petition.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
After teaching the disciples this prayer, Jesus says “For if you forgive
others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if
you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive
your trespasses.
“Children learn what they live.” That would make a nice bumper
sticker, wouldn’t it? Are you praying the Lord’s prayer, and living this
petition? So would “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. Are you
forgiving others as God forgave you? How about “Christians aren’t perfect,
just forgiven”? Do you eagerly, gratefully, and joyfully receive the
forgiveness given to you here in God’s house—and then distribute it freely
in your own? We could come up with other bumper stickers about
forgiveness, but ultimately forgiveness, Christ, and the Gospel are much to
great to be captured on a bumper sticker—but these wonderful, life-giving
truths ARE contained here in His word. May that word be impressed upon

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you, your children, and your children’s children today, tomorrow, and
forever.
Amen.