Forgiveness is a big deal.
Let me share with you something Jesus said about forgiveness.
"Jesus said to His disciples: 'Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times come back to you and says, "I repent,' forgive him.'
The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'" Luke 17:1-5
The forgiveness that Christ demands in this passage is big. Jesus said that we are to forgive over and over, even forgiving the same person seven times a day. I don't think Jesus was giving seven as the maximum number, but rather He was hammering home the point that His followers must be forgiving.
The apostles understood how hard this was going to be. They seemingly shout "Increase our faith!" after hearing Jesus' directive to forgive over and over again. Forgiving is not easy. Forgiving is even harder when the person we need to forgive is close to us and will likely offend us again. I'm sure you have a sibling, co-worker, neighbor, spouse or child that has asked for your forgiveness many times and you're getting sick of offering forgiveness to them. Forgiveness, especially forgiveness to those likely to be reoffenders, is not at all easy, but it is necessary.
We are not to do anything that would cause others to sin, especially "little ones". These "little ones" might be children or simply new believers, but either way we're not to do anything to be part of the cause of their sinning. Jesus said it would be better to be drowned to death mafia style than to cause a "little one" to sin. So, saying this is a big deal to Jesus is an understatement.
My question when reading this passage was this: why are these two statements right next to each other? Why does Jesus teach about not causing "little ones" to sin and then immediately start talking about forgiveness?
I think He did this because there is a strong correlation between forgiveness and the Gospel. A large part of the good news of Jesus is that we've been forgiven and that we've been forgiven of a lot, to put it mildly.
Our forgiveness or lack of forgiveness preaches the Gospel; is your living sermon a good one?
If the Gospel is true then we should be so forgiving. If the Gospel is true then we should be the most forgiving people. That's why the apostles said "Increase our faith!" They realized that it takes an immense faith to be as forgiving as Christ demands. But Jesus goes on to explain in verse 6 that, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." See, it isn't the amount of faith we need increased in order to be immensely forgiving. We need the understanding of the size of the thing our faith is in to be increased. When we magnify the Gospel to see it nearly as big as it really is then our willingness to forgive will be magnified to nearly as big as it needs to be.
Don't cause people to doubt the Gospel because you are unforgiving. Don't cause your children to misunderstand what forgiveness is and therefore sin. Don't put on such a shallow display of forgiveness that new Christians follow your lead and miss the mark. Forgiveness is a big deal. Christians, we must forgive.
Lord, increase our faith and understanding of what you've done in your Gospel so that we can forgive like ones that have been forgiven much today.