Forgiveness (Luke 15:1-7)

By | February 19, 2012

F-BOMBS: Struggling With the F-Words of Life #4
F-Words That Cripple, F-Words that Wound, F-Words that Haunt Us Every Day


     Forgiveness. We DO need it. We want it; but sometimes it’s hard to accept. And, it’s even harder to give. Because, Sometimes we want to keep it to ourselves. But when we DO accept it, when we DO give it and forgive others, Jesus says there is joy in heaven. Let’s look at the passage for this morning.

Luke 15:1-7 (NRSV)

 [1] Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.  

 [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  

 [3] So he told them this parable:  

 [4] “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  

 [5] When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  

 [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  

 [7] Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  

Forgiveness. You wouldn’t think this F-Word would cause any trouble at all but it does. Forgiveness, that’s the F-Bomb we will be looking at today.



     A. Back in the dark ages when I was still farming, one afternoon I was working on the hydraulic lift of our Massey Ferguson tractor. I had to bust it apart in the middle, and set both halves on stands in order to get to the O-Rings that I had to replace. The only way you could work on it was to sit and pull yourself under like sitting at a table.

     We had a little dog back then named Cho-Cho. She was a small lap size mutt who we’d had for years and loved to roam the farm. It wasn’t unusual for her to be sitting next to me while I worked, so I wasn’t surprised to feel her brush up against my back wanting to be petted.

     I told her, “Go away, Cho-cho.” And went back to work. She did it again. I told her to go away. Then she bumped and nudged my elbow. I reached around and pushed her out of the way and said, “Go away.”

     The next thing I know is I feel her starting to crawl in my lap. Just about the time I get ready to shove her out of the way, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and look through all the mess of the tractor and see my little dog running around the corner of the garage about 60 yards away.

     Puzzled, I looked down as a skunk crawled across my lap. Well, you can imagine my panic. I froze. I let it crawl off my lap and watched it as it meandered over to the door of our shop. Of course, as best as I can, I’m tracking my dog, who had now seen it and has kicked it into high gear.

     To this day, I don’t know how I did it, but it had to be some divine kung-fu move or something because in one fluid motion, as the skunk went into the shop and my dog closed in, I got out from under the tractor, quickly and quietly shut the door to the shop and scooped up my dog. Then I sniffed, so far so good.

     I put the dog in house, quietly opened the door to the shop and waited, at a safe distance for my curious little friend to vacate the premises and leave the area. I did NOT want to have a closer encounter than I’d already had.

     We know what skunks can do don’t we? We know how much they stink. None of us want to encounter the business end of a skunk, no matter how cute we might think they are. We’d be foolish to try and believe that skunks didn’t exist or that they didn’t stink. Well, it’s sort of the same way with Sin, it would be foolish to think that it doesn’t exist..

     B. Years ago I read an article in National Geographic about Grizzly Bears. While visiting Yellowstone Park, the writer noticed that the only animal that a Grizzly Bear would share its food with was a skunk. He said, it’s not that the Grizzly Bear wants to share its food with a skunk but rather it chooses to share. With one mighty swing of its powerful paw, the grizzly could crush the skunk. So why does the Grizzly allow the skunk to eat with it?  Because the Grizzly Bear knows the high cost of slapping the skunk.

     Over the years, that’s sort of become a parable for sin. We don’t like to admit it but through our disobedience, through our unwillingness to take responsibility for our own actions, through our sin we’ve slapped the skunk. Consequently, we’re covered with the stink of sin. We’re stuck with it and it stinks. Sin is very real and sometimes we don’t have to pursue it, it pursues us, like that skunk in my lap.

We don’t like it and neither does anyone else. We’re alienated from God and everybody else, we’re lost and we need cleaning up. We need Forgiveness..

     And that’s the first step, acknowledging that we need forgiveness; acknowledging that there is something wrong or something missing in our lives that we can’t fix.


     A. Once we acknowledge the stink of sin in our lives, then we can seek the cure, the antidote and it’s not tomato juice. The problem is that even though some people acknowledge the existence of sin in the world, they don’t acknowledge it in their own lives. They’ve never committed any heinous crimes. They think of themselves as good people, which most of them are.

     The thing is you can’t receive something you think you don’t need. If the doctor gives you a prescription for an illness or health issue you won’t acknowledge you have, and you don’t fill the prescription or take the medication, you won’t get any better? The symptoms won’t go away.

     It’s the same with Forgiveness and Sin. Unless we acknowledge that we are covered with the stink of slapping the skunk, the stink of sin, we can never get rid of the odor.

     B. For some people, whether it’s Fear or Failure or the tapes playing in their heads from their childhood telling them they aren’t worthy; for some people this is the hardest step. They know they need forgiveness. Their hearts and spirits have convicted them long ago. They ache with the need and the desire for forgiveness. But somewhere along the line they got the notion stuck in their head that what they’ve done is so bad, that God could never forgive them.

     But if that’s the case, then it makes Jesus a liar and all of his teachings suspect because he claimed to come  to bring forgiveness for the whole world.

     Hear the Good News: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ you ARE forgiven. All you have to do is as Acknowledge your sin, turn it over to Him (that’s called repentance) and accept what Jesus has done for you. He came looking for you like the Shepherd in search of the lost sheep.

     He wants you to know He loves you and that you are forgiven. Accept that forgiveness. Don’t go another day with the burden you’ve been carrying.


     A. It’s hard is to acknowledge our sinful nature. It’s hard to acknowledge that we’ve slapped the skunk and we’re covered with the stink of sin. It’s hard to confess our sin. Sometimes it’s even hard to  accept the forgiveness Christ offers. But it’s even harder to offer that same forgiveness to others. And yet, that’s exactly what we are called to do as His disciples.

     Our forgiveness didn’t come free. It cost God the life of His Son. Forgiveness sets us free from the burden of guilt we carried because of that sin. But it also demands that we forgive and offer forgiveness in the same manner in which we were forgiven, freely without price.

     It’s easy to say but it’s extremely difficult to do. And yet it’s exactly what Jesus expects of us. Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer we remind ourselves and ask God to “Forgive us our sins in the same manner in which we forgive those who sin against us.”

     It almost sounds as if our own Forgiveness depends upon our Forgiving others. That’s sort of how I’ve always interpreted that but in reading and preparing for our Lenten Study “Final Words from the Cross” by Adam Hamilton I’ve seen that notion in a different light. Dr. Hamilton writes:

     “If you are someone who resents other people and refuses to forgive them, then you carry bitterness in your heart toward them. That makes it very hard for you to accept God’s forgiveness, because in your heart you are unwilling to forgive others. How can you truly know God’s mercy when you are unwilling to extend mercy? Because you do not forgive, you assume that God is like you. Because you carry resentment for a long time, you may subconsciously believe that God must be the same way.

     People who regularly forgive others, on the other hand, find it easier to believe and trust in the grace of God because their hearts have been enlarged by grace, and they freely offer it to others.”(1)

     While having an unforgiving spirit doesn’t put our souls into jeopardy we can never truly know the full extent of God’s mercy and grace if we don’t forgive. And to me, even as hard as forgiving others is, not forgiving is sort of like only getting to eat one bite of your favorite meal. In doing so, we deny ourselves the fullness of all God offers.

     B. The Movie Grid Iron Gang starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, is based on a true story account of Sean Porter, an officer at the Camp Kilpatrick juvenile detention facility, who finally became fed up with the recidivism rate of the young men who passed through the program.

     Determining that goals and discipline were what was lacking, Porter and Malcolm Moore, his colleague, decide to create a competitive football program. While the film adheres to most of the sports-movie standards, like the value of hard work, sweat and team work, it doesn’t sugar coat the outcome of these young men. The film examines the idea of second chances, forgiving your enemies, repenting of mistakes, and the power of God’s Word to create change in our lives. Apart from the language, it’s a really good flick.

     In this scene, Willie is one of Sean Porter’s most hardened, violent, and emotionally broken juvenile inmates. Jailed for killing his mother’s boyfriend in the middle of a domestic abuse situation, Willie now fights at the drop of a hat whenever one of the other juvenile inmates provokes him. After his latest altercation, Willie is put “in the box” to separate him from the others. Sean comes in to see if he can speak into the situation. WATCH

     I love that scene, while trying to lead Willie into forgiving his father, Sean actually has a break through and forgives his own father.

     Forgiveness is one of the mysteries of human existence. Forgiveness is an ongoing, daily choice. It’s not something we do once and walk away. It takes time. And it takes continually choosing to follow Christ’s lead. When we choose to forgive someone who has hurt us, we actually make a real lifelong, spiritual transformation in our inner life.

     Few other choices we make can affect us at this level. Jesus taught us the need to forgive others so we can avoid the consequences of holding on to Unforgiveness. In other words, in order to get rid of the stink of sin in our lives, we have to let Jesus clean every area of our lives. Including those wounds caused by others that we seem to nurse along. We have to give them to Jesus as well.


     When we return to God through Christ by acknowledging our own sinfulness and accepting God’s forgiveness, God rejoices. Tony Campolo says, “There’s a party in heaven on our behalf.”  I think the same holds true when we are finally able to let go and forgive someone who has hurt or wounded us deeply. I think God rejoices in the same way.

     There are a number of touching Videos of military Dads and Moms surprising their children and families when they finally come home from deployment overseas. But I really like this one. WATCH.

     If our dogs are that excited when we come home after an extended time away, imagine how excited and happy God is when we acknowledge our sin, accept God’s forgiveness and come home. Imagine how excited God gets when we forgive someone else like we’ve been forgiven.

     God throws a party; all heaven rejoices as Jesus said. The challenge is three fold. The first is to admit that we are all covered in the stink of sin and we can’t do anything about it.

     The second is to give that sin, that alienation, that brokenness to the one who can do something about it, Jesus and accept the forgiveness He offers. He offers it to you. You need it. You are worthy, no matter what anyone else says. Accept it.

     And the final challenge is to live as Jesus taught by giving Him the bitterness we still carry in our hearts against those who have hurt and wounded us. Give it up. Give it to Christ. Make the conscious choice to forgive and let it go and let the party begin.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1.   Final Words from the Cross (Adam Hamilton) – Highlight Loc. 285-86 on my Kindle

Other References Consulted