Yourself forgiven / Matthew 18:1-20 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Sunday September 6th 2020 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: Matthew 18.1-20
Theme: Yourself Forgiven
Intr – Matthew chapter 18 has a strong emphasis on the forgiveness of sins. As we confess in the Apostle’s Creed, forgiveness of sins is “wrought in us through the Sacraments and Absolution and through all kinds of comforting promises from the Gospel”.
Also, the text for today brings to us the Bible in a nutshell:
_18:1-4: Sin. Mention to the greatest of all – Pride; the desire to be the greatest. Wasn’t that the sin that had Lucifer falling from grace and becoming the devil?
_18:7-9 – Practical examples and consequences of sin. Ways in which thinking you are the greatest may lead you to sin grossly. And the ultimate consequence of it – the eternal fire.
_18:10-14 – Justification. Salvation through Faith. We were lost in our sins, but the Good Shepherd, out of his care, love and concern for us, without any merit or dignity on our part, comes after us, finds us and rescues is. Freely, through faith, because of God’s Grace.
_18:15-20 – Santification, faith in action. The same forgiveness we receive we are to share with our neighbour. It may be privately with our sinning brothers, or them with us; publicly with the Church. And even in the most extreme case, when you “consider him or her a tax collector,” it is not yet the final straw. They become object of our Law and Gospel preaching of forgiveness in Christ over and over again.
This Scripture section has a strong emphasis on forgiveness; from God to us, from us to our neighbour. There is one thing about forgiveness though that this passage doesn’t mention, and that I’d like to approach today. Well, the entire Scripture lacks evidence of it. It is the topic: “to forgive yourself”
“Are you sure pastor? I hear about that a lot, even in Christian circles. That must be somewhere in the Bible.” Well, it is not. The idea that after Jesus forgives you, and others forgive you, and the Church declares forgiveness to you through its called minister (John 19) now you need to forgive yourself is completely strange to the Gospel. It can actually be even contrary to it.
Let’s clarify the concepts we are working with here:
Forgiving yourself – If we are talking about guilt, remorse or consequences of big mistakes we make in life, we could cut this expression some slack here. But it is still not very accurate. In this case what you are trying to do is to deal with the consequences, heal the wounds, carry on; because even as a saint you are still a sinner. That’s a sinners’ life from Baptism to the grave. But there is no way in which we can forgive ourselves.
Yourself forgiven – This is what the Bible talks about. Yourself forgiven. After denouncing the peril of Pride and the aspiration for being the greatest, Jesus goes further to show ways in which this sin manifests in life. Our eyes, our hand, our feet they make us stumble and fall as we walk in life thinking “I’m number one”. We would be then blinded to the fact that we need forgiveness. And we cannot forgive ourselves when we don’t think we need forgiveness.
But then you are forgiven. You are the lost sheep found by the Shepherd. He comes to you to bring you faith. Now that He found you and that by faith you are forgiven, now you are enabled to love Him. “For it is impossible to love God unless forgiveness of sins is received by faith, The heart, truly feeling that God is angry cannot love God unless He is shown to have been reconciled.” And this forgiveness of sins is freely offered. Reconciliation does not depend on our merits.
From this point on, yourself forgiven is not a question anymore; doubts and wavering feeling fade away. You are forgiven, fully and completely. There should be no question from this point on if you need to forgive yourself or not. God himself has done that. How could I put myself above Him thinking that there’s still some work to be done? That now I am the one who still needs to take the final step?
Here we come back to the problem raised at the beginning of the chapter. Pride. We may also be trying to be the greatest in the Kingdom by putting ourselves above God’s line of forgiveness and carrying on in life trying to see if and when we would be able to do something God himself has already put to rest.
Let it go. Don’t hold on to the perspective that you need to forgive yourself. You don’t need to forgive yourself, you Yourself are forgiven by faith in Christ. Actually, you can’t forgive yourself, it would be a never ending process. Wherever you go in the Scripture to find verses about forgiveness, it is either God forgiving you, you forgiving others, or other sharing forgiveness with you. It is never a question between you and yourself. That problem is already settled. Yourself forgiven, in Christ, through faith.
As sinners though, we live then with consequences of our sin. The devil loves to throw back in our face mistakes and sins from the past, whether small or big. “Are you sure you can continue to go with that your poker face to church, ignoring that (any given year) you did (any given sin)?” “Are you sure you are forgiven? Remember how many people you hurt…” And many other examples that our old Adam may come up to torture us with. We don’t need to let them take over as if “we didn’t forgive ourselves.” After all, when would we be sure that we have already 100% forgiven our own self, or that would be only escapes, sublimations, deflections? That’s not sure, nor right, nor secure. You not only don’t need to forgive yourself, you just can’t forgive yourself. Jesus forgiveness is already 100% sure. You yourself are forgiven. He is there for you and with you as you struggle with your guilt, memory, weakness or lack of love.
Whenever you are in doubt or fear that there is no forgiveness for you, that you should be more forgiving of yourself, whether for many or for an specific thing you did, listen to these comforting words: “We shall daily receive in the Church nothing but forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. So even though we have sins, the Grace of the Holy Spirit does not allow them to harm us. For we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but continuer, uninterrupted forgiveness of sin. This is because God forgives us and because we forgive, bear with and help one another (Galatians 6:1-2)”.
Now, that’s why Matthew 18 15-20 is so important connected to our life of faith in action. This same security Jesus’ forgiveness brings to us we want to bring to our brothers and sisters in faith. We can talk to them privately, with the goal of bringing forgiveness. We can bring the issue to more witnesses, or to the Church if needed, with the goal of bringing forgiveness about. Even when we excommunicate them, we still have God’s forgiveness in mind. For that person won’t be able to forgive him or herself either. They need to hear the forgiveness proclaimed by Christ from the Word through his Church, whether privately or publicly.
Christ’s forgiveness in perfect, amazing, complete.
And it is for you.
Cc – Forget about forgiving yourself. Remember yourself forgiven. And forgotten – for God doesn’t remember our sins anymore. This precious present is yours to keep. Yours to live. Your to share. Amen
 Large Catechism, page 405, &54.
 Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV, page 87, paragraph 36
 Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV, page 87, paragraph 41
 Some examples:
1 John 1:9
"But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."
"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."
1 Peter 5:7
"God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to him."
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
"He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him."
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
"Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him." Matthew 6:12
"Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others."
"It’s wise to be patient and show what you are like by forgiving others."
"I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."
"All who invoke a blessing or take an oath will do so by the God of truth. For I will put aside my anger and forget the evil of earlier days."
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back."
 Large Catechism, p.405, paragraph 55