top of page

FALL 2022 PREACHING SERIES 8: Disciples Forgive

We continue our Fall preaching series on DISCIPLESHIP, the seventh part entitled: DISCIPLES forgive.

Disciples forgive people who harm them and seek forgiveness when they harm others. Learning to forgive begins with first recognizing that I am a sinner and that sometimes my actions hurt other people. I must start with seeking forgiveness. Then, when I am forgiven, I know love and I can learn to practice forgiving others. Forgiving others for their sins against me requires great love and a lot of practice. I’m not sure about you, but for me, this is the greatest ask of being a disciple … forgiving!

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from accountability.

Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.

The Old Testament reading today from the Book of Wisdom may help us further in that it gives us a description of God. The passage tells us what kind of a God God is, and perhaps more so even what kind of people we should be. The picture of God found in this text is amazing:

He is merciful to all and overlooks people’s sins.

He spares all things, he who loves the living.

He corrects little by little those who trespass

I wonder sometimes how many people reading or hearing these lines could say, in all truth: This is exactly how I perceive God … It seems to me that so many keep away from God… fear him… do not trust what these texts say of God and have an entirely different picture of God … why?

Today’s Gospel is the familiar story from Luke. It’s about Zacchaeus, whose name means righteous, which is pure irony in this story. Luke describes him as the sort of sleaze ball person that we love to hate. He says that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. That is, he was a Jew who collected taxes for the Roman oppressors. So, he really was a traitor to the political cause.

Luke also says that Zacchaeus was wealthy. And surprise, surprise, how did a Roman tax collector get wealthy? By extortion and embezzlement. By taking advantage of the elderly, by exploiting the working poor, and by taking care of his cronies. There's an unspoken assumption of corruption here. Zacchaeus is a man who deserves our disdain.

Zacchaeus was not only corrupt and rich, he was physically short. When Jesus passed through Jericho, he was eager to get a look, so he did something utterly undignified for a man of his station. He ran ahead of the crowd, climbed up into a tree, then waited for Jesus to pass by. Imagine a powerful lobbyist in W