WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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(Teaching about forgiveness and faith)
In this world there will always be temptations to sin. Also, in this world, GOD will not hold blameless, any person who causes another person to stray. In the Greek, the word Luke uses for the phrase “temptations to sin” in verse 1 is “skandalon”, and it is from that word that we derive our English word “scandal”. Originally it meant “the bait in the trap”. However, over time it has come to mean “a stumbling block that is placed in a person’s way in order to trip them up”. Here in the opening lines of Luke 17, JESUS warns of how terrible a judgment it will be for anyone who intentionally tempts or teaches another Christian to sin, or leads that person away from the path of innocence, such as in the cases of misleading children (Vs.1-2).
Then, just as suddenly as HE introduced the subject of “temptation”, and the terrible judgment that awaits the professed Christian who does the tempting in verses 1-3, in verse 4 JESUS turns and instructs the Christian victim of the tempting, of the need for them to “rebuke their offender” and, “if”, they come to them and repent from their wrongdoing, and request to be forgiven, they should be forgiven by those who were wronged. And even if they should offend you seven times a day, and then repent, then, seven times a day, as a Christian, you are obligated to “forgive” them.
In this passage JESUS seems to shed a new light on the Christian practice of “turning the other cheek”, as here HE tells us to, first, “confront the sinner” for their wrong-doing, or offense against you, and then “if they repent” they should be forgiven. Here JESUS points out, from a new perspective, that, our forgiveness should not be of a “passive” nature. Our “willingness to forgive” must be just as sincere as the wrong-doer’s “repent and request to be forgiven”. In other words, if reconciliation is to be achieved, forgiveness has to be received, as well as extended.
If a person is not willing to acknowledge guilt, that person cannot spiritually receive forgiveness from you. And even though we as Christians must always be ready and willing to forgive, JESUS says, we cannot truly say that we have forgiven a person in our heart until we have, first, confronted and rebuked the offender, and the offenders themselves have repented with GODly sorrow (Vs.3-4).
Taking up at verse 5, the focus of JESUS’ teaching moves from “forgiveness” to “faith”, as one day the apostles asked HIM how they could obtain more “faith”. After hearing what JESUS had to say on “temptation” and “forgiveness” they began to realize how difficult it can be to accept the responsibility of “rebuking a person to induce repentance”, and then, “extending to them, sincere forgiveness”. They surmised that it would take a great deal of faith in order to reach that level of spirituality, or, “spiritual maturity”.
However, in verse 6 JESUS surprisingly points out that it only takes “mustard seed sized faith” to say to a mulberry tree, “May GOD uproot you and throw you into the sea, and it would obey you!”. Here JESUS seems to be saying that, it is not so much about faith, as it is about having “self control” over the “gifts” and “faculties” that GOD gives us to ensure that we are able to overcome the various temptations that we may face in life, and still remain obedient to HIM, through it all. And, we must forgive others when they fail, just as GOD forgives us when we fail. The attitude of GOD is one of, both, “self control” (discipline), and, “longsuffering” (patient endurance).
In verses 7-10 JESUS drives home HIS point with the telling of the story of a typical day in the life of any servant. HE says that when a servant comes home from attending his superior’s sheep, he doesn’t sit down and eat, but rather, he begins the task of preparing his superior’s meal first, and then, serves him. Afterwards, he may not even be thanked for his efforts because, it is understood that he is simply doing what he is supposed to do. In the same way, when we obey JESUS we should say, “We are not worthy of praise, but rather, we are servants who have simply done what we are supposed to do for our LORD and SAVIOR.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander