On Extravagance — And Its Lack
You will never be sinned against by anyone the way in which you have sinned against God. No one will ever commit the number of sins against you that you have committed against God.
And on the other hand, you will never have to forgive as much to anyone as God has forgiven to you. But you will forgive, with the forgiveness of God.
Here is a parable which illustrates perfectly the way in which God deals with penitent sinners who realize that they have sinned against Him. He absolves them. He has absolved you, has He not?
This parable illustrates perfectly the way in which we deal with penitent sinners who have sinned against us. We also absolve them. You have done that, have you not?
This is what the Kingdom of God is all about.
In one sense we are not members of what anyone would call a “liberal” church body. And yet in another sense our people should learn to be the most liberal and generous people around–extravagant to the utmost, with the mercy and kindness of our gracious God and Savior.
Most of us probably pray the Lord’s Prayer daily in our devotions. There we plead for forgiveness, with a “rider” of sorts attached, which slips off the tongue so easily — “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
God does forgive us. We know this through Christ, who bore all sins on the cross for us and the whole world. We do not deserve it. We do not deserve any of God’s gifts. “For we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment.”
But God forgives, in Christ, through Word and Sacrament, over and over again. And because of that we will “also heartily forgive . . . those who sin against us.”
To refuse to forgive is hell. The unforgiving spirit is the spirit of hell. The one who receives the forgiveness of God yet refuses to comfort the penitent offender, that one is heading for hell, for torment, where an eternity will not extract the payment due, the forgiveness refused.
God’s work has been to procure forgiveness for and dispense it to us sinners. He established this at the Cross and continues it through the Means of Grace. Our work, our mission, is to apply it to the sorry sinners around us.
The details of this parable are staggering. The one man was forgiven millions and millions of dollars that he owed to his master. (The King at that time, Herod, never earned a thousand talents in any year of his reign.) This one man owed ten thousand of them! And his master wiped the slate clean!
Then he turns around and grabs by the throat a man who owed him but a few thousand dollars and refused to release him from that debt even though the man also begged for more time.
Which raises the question: When would God ever stop forgiving us? Simply answer: When we stop taking His forgiveness to others. When we shut up our hearts and ears and mouths–so that the Word cannot get in or out of our lives.
This can happen to people in the church who don’t listen anymore. It’s all so familiar, so irrelevant, so useless.
Look out! God loves to forgive. Do you know anyone who needs it? You know one person who does. Yourself. And you also know someone very close to you who is yearning for a word of absolution, from Christ, through you.
Go on, be liberal. Be extravagant!
–Pastor Warren Fanning