Sin and Forgiveness

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Two words emerge from today’s Bible reading from Matthew 18: SIN and FORGIVENESS.

Jesus talks about causing a child to stumble and says that it would better for the person who causes this offense to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck.

Next, He says that if your eye or hand causes you to sin, it would better to pluck it out and cut it off because it would be better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven maimed than to suffer in Hell because you didn’t deal with your sin.

Later, He emphasizes the importance of restoration when someone sins. Note, he says restoration and not punishment. Relationships are very important: relationships between people and people’s relationship with God. (Matthew 18:35, Matthew 6:14-15)

Finally, Jesus turns to the need to repeatedly forgive an offender. The math of 70×7 works out to 490, but Jesus’ emphasis is not on counting how many times you forgive, but that you forgive.


The bottom line of Matthew 18 is the seriousness of sin. Sin is bad. Really bad. And we should do whatever it takes to avoid it. John Piper quotes Puritan John Owen when he said that if you are not killing sin, it is killing you. Owen wrote a book, The Mortification of Sin in Believers based on Romans 8:13.

The second main point of Matthew 18 is the seriousness of forgiveness. As bad as it is when people sin against you, it is equally bad when you withhold forgiveness from them — whether or not they ask for forgiveness.

Someone wisely said that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the offender gets sick. They may not even be aware that they sinned against you. Withholding forgiveness will eat you alive, so don’t do it. It will shortcircuit your walk with Christ. And that isn’t worth it, regardless of what the other person has done to you.

Now hear me out: the fact that someone sinned against you is bad. Really bad. Forgiveness does not respond by saying, “That’s ok.” It’s not OK! But we are called to release that person to let God deal with their sin. And if you really want to go deep in forgiving the other person, ask God to not hold this sin against them when they stand before the Judgment.

God is infinitely better at dealing with sin
than you will ever hope to be.
And yet, God is infinitely better at forgiving sin
than you will ever hope to be.