Finding Forgiveness in Our Family

Finding Forgiveness in Our Family


  • Home. The word that means so much to so many. Nostalgia washes over some when they hear the word. 
    • The place where love and acceptance are found; a place of good memories, holidays, and birthdays. 
    • A place where you go when things get crazy; A place of fun and family. 
  • Yet, it isn’t that way for everyone. 
    • Home brings a different wave of emotions: brokenness, pain, betrayal, bitterness, guilt, fear and even hate. 
    • Sadly, some of that is due to another word that means so much to so many: divorce. 
  • Again, the very word brings back painful memories—even for some in this very crowd. 
    • I realize discussing such a subject on Sunday morning isn’t something Christians want to do. 
    • Some of you have endured a painful divorce in the past in a previous marriage; others experienced the pain of seeing your own parents divorced (as a child or as an adult); some of you have seen your own children divorce their spouse; still others are possibly on the verge of divorce this very morning. 
  • My heart is breaking for you—but more importantly, the heart of God breaks for you. 
    • More than anyone, he knows the pain of covenant breaking—the people he loves most are the ones who have betrayed him the most frequently. 
    • Just as your heart hurts when you see your loved ones enduring family trauma, God’s heart aches when he sees you struggling. 
    • God is intimately invested in the welfare of your family (Mal. 2:14-15). 
  • Because of this, that is why Jesus teaching on divorce is so strict—even severe—to some: because he wants families to stay together. 
    • Because of this, he raises the bar: the only legitimate excuse for divorce is sexual unfaithfulness (Matt. 19:9). 
    • Serious business—and yet, even this doesn’t have to mean the end of a marriage. 
    • Is it possible to find forgiveness even when someone has hurt us so badly? What about those who have already endured divorce? What about children of divorced parents? 
  • That’s what we want to discuss this morning as we speak about “Finding Forgiveness in Our Families.” 
  • Text: Matt. 18:21-35; Matt. 19:1-9. 

A Story Demonstrating Forgiveness 

  • Peter, like many of us, wanted definite, quantifiable perimeters for his religion (v. 21): Jesus tell me exactly where the forgiveness ends and the hate, grudges, and bitterness begin. 
    • Probably through himself pretty gracious—if we experienced someone sinning against us seven times and still forgiving them, we would feel we were pretty gracious (or saw that in someone else). 
    • Yet, Jesus multiplies it by an unthinkable number (v. 22). 
    • Again, Jesus isn’t giving a quantifiable number but trying to show Peter that forgiveness is a constant state of life that we live toward others in response to God’s gracious action towards us. 
  • Yet, it’s hard to paint the picture of our need for forgiveness before God. 
    • What I mean: we can see in a personal, tangible way those who have done us wrong and need our forgiveness. 
    • Yet, God isn’t seen personally right now—so what does our need for forgiveness look like before God? 
  • According to Jesus, it looks like a debt—an incomprehensible, absolutely infinite debt we couldn’t possibly hope to pay (24). 
    • This was a debt this servant had worked to pay but couldn’t (25-26). 
    • The idea that Jesus is trying to get across is that, no matter how he worked, he wouldn’t be able to pay off the debt. 
    • This is the situation when someone sins against us as well: it doesn’t matter how good they are afterward, they can work enough to “pay” off that debt really. 
    • It requires grace: that the offended, out of pity and mercy, responds and relieves them of the burden of guilt. 
  • This is what makes the servant’s post-forgiveness actions so deplorable. 
    • Finds a man in the exact same situation as him and, instead of showing him grace, makes him endure the consequence of His guilt. 
    • Notice, the debt this man owed was pennies/pocket change compared to what the servant had owed. 
    • Here is the central point and the force of the 490 degrees of forgiveness: The forgiveness we extend to others is based on the debt of our sins that is forgiven by God’s grace. 
  • What this means then is that you must be accurately aware of your own sins and need of grace before you are able to extend great grace to others. 
    • This is why the self-righteous struggle with forgiveness: they haven’t been truly convicted of their sin (Luke 18:9-14). 
    • If they saw themselves in light of God’s holiness, all of their sin and pride exposed before His holy light, they wouldn’t simply beg for their own forgiveness, but live a new life of grace in light of the salvation they received. 
  • Please don’t misunderstand me: forgiveness isn’t easy. Forgiveness isn’t even fair. But forgiveness is necessary (18:35). 
  • Here is the hard part: most of the time it is the people we love the most, the people we have invested the most time and effort into, that hurt us the most (i.e. family). 
  • How does this apply to that very personal life? 

A Situation Needing Forgiveness 

  • Interesting how the Pharisees come to Jesus asking a question similar in nature to Peter’s: Jesus lay out the reasons for which we can divorce our spouses (v. 3). 
    • As with Peter, Jesus quickly informs them that they are looking at this the wrong way: instead of thinking about how they can break up their marriage, they should be asking how they can keep it together. 
    • God’s intention for marriage wasn’t for man to forsake their spouse for any reason they so desired (although he gave a concession in Mosaic law), but to remain in covenant with their spouse. 
  • We catch then a glimpse of why divorce is so painful: it goes against God’s intended, natural order. 
    • Within marriage, we commit ourselves to another human being in a way we don’t with anyone else (v. 5). 
    • There is a transcendent, divine element to marriage in which God joins the spouses together (v.6). 
    • Therefore, since this is a heavenly interaction, only a divine authority can dissolve the relationship (let not man put asunder). 
    • The one scenario given for divorce is adultery (v. 9) and if divorce occurs for another reason, the new union resulting from that is considered adultery. 
  • Its difficult to even read over these passages because some of you have been through this—how painful it is. How difficult. 
    • If not this situation, then some other: divorce I think can represent many hardships and difficulties a family can go through. 
    • Often in such situations we feel absolutely hopeless: how do we move forward from this? How can ever hope to heal?
    • I believe there is some connective tissue between Matthew 18-19 that previously I overlooked (maybe just a coincidence). 
  • Being honest, these are some difficult truths I have to say, but I know I do them out of love: 
    • The Lord doesn’t give an easy out. 
      • If your thinking about divorce this morning, as a preacher I need you to understand what Jesus is saying here: there is only reason for legitimate divorce in God’s eyes. 
      • Please don’t view this as restrictive (1 John 5:3) but as redeeming: God gives the high consequence of divorce as a means of working through your issues in marriage, discovering the beauty of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. 
    • Forgiveness is the greatest option. 
      • I don’t know your situation, all the pain and loneliness you’ve endured, whether your spouse even wanted to work things out, but I do know this: forgiveness, even against great indignity, is always the godly option. 
        • Of course, forgiveness isn’t simply an option, but necessary for your own forgiveness. 
        • I realize that you can still divorce your spouse for this single exception and forgive them, but I also know you can forgive them and remain in the marriage. 
      • Please don’t misunderstand me: I do believe that you have the right to divorce your spouse if they commit this act against you. 
        • Yet, I worry that sometimes we view this as a necessity instead of an option; we forget that forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation are possible. 
        • And like Peter, we are looking for a quantifiable way to go by the “letter of the law” instead of seeking a spirit of grace and mercy based on the forgiveness God has given us. 
    • Grace Can heal Any Family 
      • Its been said that we want justice for others, and mercy for ourselves—how true this is. 
        • When we begin conversations about grace we have to throw out language of “deserving”—the very nature of grace means that it is underserving, and cannot be demanded. 
        • I don’t know your family situation this morning—whether it is divorce, or betrayal, or lies—and please don’t think I am trying to legislate every situation you are in. 
        • But I do know this: there is an amazing, transformative power of grace that can mend and heal some deeply traumatizing wounds in a family. 
      • So I simply ask this: give grace a chance. Allow the Lord to work in you and your family, as you forgive now, hoping in the future redemption and healing he will bring when he returns. 


    • Devil Anse Hatfield was the patriarch of the notorious Hatfield family in the bloody Hatfield and McCoy feud. 
      • He oversaw the execution of many within the McCory family. 
      • Terrible cycle of bitterness and merciless hatred that ravaged these two families. 
    • Later in life, in 1911, Devil Anse, was baptized into Christ and became a member of the church of Christ—after years of rejecting the good news, he came to know the power of grace. 
  • As difficult as the debt of forgiveness is to forgive, the burden of hate is far greater to bear—don’t let bitterness and hatred be the legacy of your family. 
  • Find forgiveness in your family today. 


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