The Peacemakers Part 5 – Keepers of Peace

Preached May 5, 2024

Do you know that there is power and healing in forgiveness? Join Pastor McCrary for this week’s message as he shared Jesus’ principles on forgiveness. Jesus’ way of forgiveness guarantees peace to those wronged and those who can admit their faults.

Introduction

Do you know that there is power and healing in forgiveness?  Forgiveness is a lost art in our society today as anger and hatred rages on.  God desires for us to be fruitful and to multiply but we cannot do that without harmony.  Since we are imperfect creatures, inevitably we will wrong each other.  So, we must learn how to reconcile our differences in order to live in harmony. 

Misgiving About Forgiveness

In recent weeks, we have seen that as peacemakers, we should fight for what’s right.  We have also seen that we should be advocates of each other and those who are done unjustly.  In Matthew 18:15-35, Jesus spoke to one of our main duties as peacemakers which is that as keepers of peace.  

So, the question came from the mouth of Peter: “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him (Matt. 18:21)?”  I feel Peter was asking this question from the same place many believers would ask today.  The truth of the matter is that at some point in time, most of us have been mistreated and done wrongly.  Those wrongs have left their wounds on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  

So, there’s been a growing movement against forgiveness.  As I have said in the past, forgiveness is often portrayed as a sign of weakness.  Why?  Because it’s seen as doing nothing about being wronged.  

So, we are slow to forgive those who have repeatedly used us and taken advantage of us.  Then there are others who we just don’t like and there’s a good chance we will never forgive!  Is this proper?  Not for one who is supposed to be a peacemaker.

Why We Should Forgive

When Peter wondered if seven times was enough to forgive someone, Jesus shook His head.  Jesus said to Peter, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22).”  Seven was the number traditionally believed to be the appropriate number of times to forgive someone.  

From Matthew 18:23-27, Jesus taught a very important parable about forgiveness to the disciples.  The parable begins with Jesus saying the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who desired to settle the debts his servants owed.  There was a servant who owed the king ten thousand talents – an absurd amount of money by today’s standards.

Because the servant couldn’t pay back his debts, the king commanded him to sell all he owned including his wife and children.  This command caused the servant to cry out and plea for the king’s patience and mercy.  The king chose to have compassion on the servant and erased all of the servant’s debt.  

This represents how God has forgiven us of all our sins.  God gave us His only begotten Son who still shows us mercy today when we wrong the Lord.  Just imagine if God was like us and struggled to forgive us for all the wrongs we have done to Him?  What shape do you think your soul would be in today? 

We are healed today in our soul because the Lord loves us and forgives us.  If God did not forgive us, the pain and shame of our wrongs would have crushed our soul.  Do you now see why we should forgive those that have wronged us?  

Let’s understand that there is great power in forgiveness because forgiveness helps us to breathe easier and live.  Because God forgives us, we are able to be at peace with ourselves and also live in harmony with Him.  Because we are at peace with the Lord, we can flourish in our life.

Jesus’ Principle on Handling Actions Against You

So, how should we move towards those that wrong us?  In Matthew 5:38-44, Jesus explained that we must first keep our peace.  Jesus said to the disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you not to resist an evil person (Matt. 5:38-39).”  In other words, they weren’t supposed to return evil for evil.

Jesus then said that if someone slapped them, the disciples should turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).  Rather than returning evil for evil, Jesus told them to love their enemy (Matt. 5:43).  The disciples were to bless those that cursed them, and do good to those that hated them.  They were to also pray for those that spitefully used or persecuted them (Matt. 5:44).

Are you a disciple (follower) of Christ?  The principles Jesus taught the twelve are still with us disciples today.  Many of you will say to yourself, “Pastor, I ain’t going out like that.”  Think about the consequences of your actions if you answer their evil and hate with evil and hatred of your own.  We know that returning evil for evil will do nothing but produce more evil.  

We must understand that there is more at stake when we answer evil with evil.  To fully understand what’s at stake, let’s consider who our enemy is and what he wants to do to us.  Our enemy wants to defeat us, right?  Our enemy wants to make us break (or snap), right?

When you return evil with your own evil, our enemy has gotten exactly what he wanted.  You have acted out of character, right?  Not only that but you’ve moved against the Spirit of God which abides with you.  Therefore, your enemy has gotten you to move against Jesus’ principles.  

The Way of Forgiveness

Something we must get right today is that we are meant to move by grace and not by anger and wrath!  In Matthew 18:15-35, Jesus’ focus is on the believer moving to be a keeper of peace and not a stirrer of wrath.

15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

KEY VERSE – MATTHEW 18:15 NKJV

Rebuke the wrongdoer  

Jesus said, “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone (Matt. 18:15).”  I want to be very clear with you that Jesus tells us to rebuke those that have wronged us.  The rebuke of a wrongdoer is the first step in the way of God’s forgiveness.

Too often, when we have been wronged, many of us will keep silent because we don’t want to keep up a bunch of mess.  How are you keeping up a bunch of mess when you have been wronged?  You cannot nor should you ever keep silent when you have been wronged!  Why is that?

Well, let’s consider this:  How do you feel when someone has wronged you?  I imagine only a few of us will say that it doesn’t bother us.  Some of us may say, “it depends on what was done.”  However, if we’re being honest with ourselves, nobody likes to be treated unfairly!  Nobody likes to be wronged!

When we are wronged, it can lead to anger building up inside of us.  That anger can quickly turn into bitterness, right?  If we let bitterness dwell within us, it can turn into wrath.  As Paul said, we should not let the sun go down on our wrath (Eph. 4:26).  If you have been wronged and remain silent, you will poison your soul with wrath.  As James said, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:20).”  

We cannot make for peace nor can we ever keep the peace if wrath dwells in us.  When you let someone know they have wronged you, this helps you to breathe a lot easier and it’s healthy for the soul.

Be civil, be amicable 

Now, also notice in Matthew 18:15 that Jesus said this initial rebuke should be done in private.  Forgiveness, we should always remember, is about making for and trying to keep the peace.  Therefore, you don’t have to make a show when it comes to your rebuke.  Would you want somebody to do that to you?

Again, even though we have been wronged, that doesn’t mean we should go acting out of character.  Let us remember the golden rule:  “Whatever you want someone to do to you, do also to them (Matt. 7:12).”  If I have wronged you, pull me to the side and I will certainly do the same to you.  Keepers of peace should be civil and amicable.  

Jesus then said, “If [your fellow man] hears you, you have gained your brother (Matt. 18:15).”  “If he hears” means that the wrongdoer was attentive to your words.  They acknowledged their wrong and then put forth the effort to correct their wrong.  The acknowledgement, to me, is most important and so meaningful.  If there was simply an acknowledging of wrongs in the world today, I truly believe the world would be a lot better off!

Get mediators if necessary

However, as we know, some folks are too stubborn to ever acknowledge any wrongdoing because they are “perfect”.  This lack of acknowledging wrongs is why there are protests, civil unrest, mass hysteria, and much anger in the world.  So, what should we do when someone ignores our rebuke?  Is that the moment when we should breathe out smoke and fire?

In Matthew 18:16, Jesus encouraged us to find a group – at least two or three witnesses.  This is a moment where we see us keepers of peace take on the role of mediators.  A mediator is one that intervenes between two warring parties to resolve an ongoing dispute.  

A spiritual mediator should be able to help establish the truth of a matter.  A spiritual mediator should approach any dispute without bias.  A spiritual mediator should help to establish a resolution that makes for peace or keeps peace.

Just move on, if necessary

Now, some folks are so stubborn that they may also ignore the mediator.  What then?  Is it finally the moment when we can wound these hard-headed people as they wounded us?  No.

Now, since Jesus was teaching about forgiving a brother or sister in Christ, He said the next thing to do would be to go to the church (Matt. 18:17).  If this person still refuses to repent of their wrongs, Jesus said, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”  Heathens and tax collectors were not well loved which often led people to having little to do with them.  Sometimes, the best way for you to keep your peace is knowing when to let unhealthy people go.  

Now, pay close attention to the fact that Jesus didn’t tell us to still forgive that stubborn person, did He?  No He didn’t!  That person hasn’t earned your forgiveness so why should you give it away?  Too often we hurt our soul by forgiving people who haven’t earned our forgiveness!  This is the reason why so many people are under the impression that forgiveness is pointlessImproper forgiveness is pointless!  

Something else I have also noticed is that we often try to appease those who haven’t earned our forgiveness!  Again, the only thing this does is cause unrest in your soul.  Forgiveness without the wrongdoer’s acknowledgment and sincere repentance is not forgiveness!  So, why do we choose to harm ourselves in such a manner?

Healing in Forgiveness

There is healing in forgiveness based on Jesus’ principles.  Because we know the forgiveness of Christ, we must teach others the way of Jesus’ principles on forgiveness.  There are many souls filled with much unrest today because of what someone has done to them.  Let us help them in their rebuke so that they can obtain peace.

Many more are in despair because they were treated poorly, gave their rebuke, and are still being abused.  Let us become their mediators to help them find peace or be that voice they need to hear to turn away from their abuser.  These are the people that need peace and are in need of love so let’s give them that love and peace!

At the same time, there are many wrongdoers who are being crushed by their guilt and the shame of their transgressions.  Should we let them suffer in their wrongdoing?  Do you think that is the way of a peacemaker?  I don’t know about you but I believe all people deserve rest in their soul.  Do you believe all people deserve rest in their soul?

Remember, Jesus told Peter that we should be willing to always forgive- seventy times seven.  Jesus told the disciples, in Luke 17:4, that if their brother sinned against them seven times in a day but genuinely repented each time, they should forgive him.  The weight of guilt and shame are too heavy to bear for many people and we should relieve them of that weight if they seek relief.

Maybe I am an idealist dreamer but I really do believe the world would be a better place if those wronged spoke up.  I believe the world would be a better place if we supported those who were wronged.  I believe the world would be a better place if those being called out for their wrongdoing acknowledged what they were doing.  

As I have said before, peace and harmony is a two-way street.  There is no such thing as peace and harmony if only one party is breathing easier.  Forgiveness is not easy!  Yes, forgiveness requires effort.  However, if we put forth the effort, we would all be blessed and flourish.

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