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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
Title:The Fourth One Another Commandment: Forgive One Another
Text:Colossians 3:1-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Text: Colossians 3



  1. Because of Who You Are

  2. Because of What You Have Received


  1. Hymn 15: 1-3

  2. Psalm 57: 1, 3, 5

  3. Psalm 51: 1, 2, 4

  4. Hymn 37: 1-2

  5. Psalm 56: 1, 4, 5

  6. Hymn 66: 1-3


Words to Listen For: illegitimate, afraid, resumes, leather, nails 


Questions for Understanding:

  1. How is our text like a scene from a classic Disney movie?

  2. What separates the church from childcare?

  3. How do we have Matthew 18 wrong?  How does this hurt us?

  4. Why aren’t we blown away by forgiveness?

  5. Hurt people ________  ____________, but ________________ people ____________ people.”

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Fellow Sinners, made Saints in Christ Jesus,

Have you ever heard the saying: Nothing more American than Apple Pie!  ?

What would it be for Canadians do you think?  Maybe something like, nothing more Canadian than apologizing to the person who bumped into you.

Now a harder one...what would it be for CHRISTIANS?  Nothing more Christian than...what?

Nothing more Christian than...gathering on Sundays?  Maybe!  But there are other groups who gather together too.  Book club’s once a week, wine club, date night.  Gathering together regularly for a common purpose isn’t uniquely Christian.

Nothing more Christian than...reading the Bible?  Again, maybe!  But there are some atheists who read it to refute our beliefs, there are history buffs who read it just for the historical accounts and leave the miracles and the morality aside...not to mention Satan.  Be certain that Satan knows his Bible.  He hates every word of it, but he’s not ignorant of it.

Nothing more Christian than...forgiveness.  Hmm.  Let’s try this one on for size.

While a case could be made for love, for hospitality, for bearing one another’s burdens...really every sermon in this series...there is a good case to be made for forgiveness.

We are, as Christians, a forgiven people, called to forgive.  Our Christian identity revolves around the one fact that Jesus Christ died TO FORGIVE US OF OUR SINS.  We are no more worthy of any of the riches of Christ than anyone else...even unbelievers.  The only thing that distinguishes us from them is that we believe in and appropriate the forgiveness of Christ and everything that comes as part and parcel of that.  We can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but day after day, He gives Himself away.  It is His forgiveness that changes us, and makes us, in turn, forgiving.  And as we will see...this, like all the other commandments, is not an option that we are given.  It’s not optional, it’s not a suggestion, but it is a very serious command.

This morning, let’s examine our next 


  1. Because of Who You Are

  2. Because of What You Have Received


Forgive...because of Who You Are

There is a classic scene in a movie that many of us probably know.

At the turning point of the classic movie, The Lion King, Simba, the protagonist isn’t sure if he can do what needs to be done.  Topple the corrupt, murderous, illegitimate king, and, as the rightful heir, rule in justice.  As he ponders what to do, and has to decide between his DESIRES and his RESPONSIBILITIES, he sees a vision of his father Mufasa who says:

Simba, you have forgotten me.

You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me.

Look inside yourself Simba. Remember who you are.

You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.

And our text this morning speaks in a very similar way.

In Colossians, the Apostle Paul is addressing a church with a reality problem.  Though they had received the gospel in faith, though they had been saved by grace through faith, they were still living their lives as though THIS EARTH is what truly mattered.  As though THIS LIFE was the one with ultimate meaning.  And so they were focused on earthly, worldly matters.

But here, the Apostle Paul, like Mufasa the lion, says: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!

  • Remember - you died, and your life is hidden with Christ, in God!
  • Remember - you have put off the old self, and taken on the new self!
  • Remember - you are one of God’s chosen ones!
  • Remember- you are one of the elect!
  • Remember who you are...and so act accordingly!

You BE.

You have died (verse 3)...therefore put to death (verse 5). are act like it!  And where we are focussing this morning, verses 12 and we find the same.

You BE.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved...this is who you ARE

And what follows?

Put on then, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.

We must have these two things together.  We must not forget the YOU ARE and simply say “BE THIS WAY.”  Because, when we do’s not really THE CHURCH anymore, it’s CHILDCARE.  Because this is what we do with our children so often, isn’t it?  BE THIS WAY.

One minister very wisely said it like this - “We take Ephesians 4:32, a parallel passage to our text, we take this verse and when we share it with our kids, we shorten it until the meaning has been lost, almost completely.”

Here’s the verse in its entirety: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.



But what do we do?  What do we say?  "Be kind!"  The first two words...and we leave it there.  Be kind!  Have a good day!  Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!  Make good choices!  BE KIND!  Gone is the reason, and so is the gospel.

Simply saying Be kind!  Or, in our text, Forgive!  without being told who we are is works righteousness.  It is pure law, and no gospel.

I timed myself saying both options - saying Be Kind! And saying the whole verse.  You save 4 SECONDS.  By saving all of 4 seconds, we are undermining the very gospel we wish to impress on our children.  The very gospel that I wish to impress on you, my congregation.

This isn’t BELIEVING, this isn’t BELONGING...this is BEHAVING.  And that’s not what the gospel teaches.

So we must FORGIVE because of WHO WE ARE.  This is the gospel.  But there’s a little more to it than that.  Let’s examine this phrase by phrase.

If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other

This word “complaint” goes a little deeper than we might think.  When we think of a complaint, it can be something true or false.  When we think of a complaint, it can be about any minor thing, or nothing at all.  Sometimes we complain just because we are bored.  But HERE, in this passage, the word COMPLAINT carries with it serious weight.  This word is used elsewhere for the deficiencies of the Old Covenant, and still elsewhere for sins that lead to the eternal condemnation of the sinner.

And so this word “complaint” found here in our text, it isn’t just about the “little things.”  These are real and true hurts.  These can be grievous sins.  And we are told to forgive them.  And this is perfectly shown in our reading.  Matthew 18.  This is a rather well-known parable, and yet, I’m afraid that it is well-known wrongly.

Let’s go through it quickly together.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

And this is where you, like me, probably think of the footnote in the old 1984 NIV Bible, which says, that is, millions of dollars.  Ten thousand talents, that is, millions of dollars.  Even in 1984, this is an understatement to say the least.  The proper amount is closer to 2 and a half billion dollars.  Jesus was clearly trying to make a point here.  There is no way that anyone could rack up this much debt.  Even if a tax collector for the whole region of Judea, as well as the neighbouring regions of Idumea and Samaria...if this tax collector embezzled ALL the taxes he collected...he would have to do this for over 10 years, with not a single red cent going to Rome.  Nobody could get away with this.  You couldn’t fit this much money in your house!  This amount of debt is unthinkable.  More than just a few million dollars.

And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

Obviously, this would not even make a dent in what was owed.  An adult slave would be worth about 6000 dollars, and children even less.  So between 1200 and 20 000 dollars taken off of a 2.5 billion dollar debt.  The point here is that the servant’s life is over because of what he has done.  It’s OVER because of HOW MUCH he owes the king.

So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

A hollow promise, and the King knows it.

And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

Not a very good business deal here.  But, as we know, God is not a good business man.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and, seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’

And here is where the NIV footnote steers us completely wrong.  What does it say?  “That is, a few dollars.”

No.  Completely wrong.  A denarius was 1 day’s wage.  So, in modern economics, this would be about $17 000.  This is a REAL DEBT.  This is the type of debt that is manageable for some, but completely overwhelming for others.  If you recall, this is a debt comparable to selling husband, wife, and children into slavery.  Nothing to sneeze at.

Now the first servant’s debt was to the King.  This represents our debt before God.

When we sin, although we really and truly hurt other people, what our sin does most is hurt God.  Our debt is more than 2.5 billion dollars with Him.

The second servant’s debt was to his fellow servant.  This represents our debt to each other.  When we sin, we really and truly hurt other people.  This is why it is so important that we recognize the true value of that second debt.  It ISN’T NOTHING.  It isn’t “just a few dollars.”  It is a LARGE debt.  When we sin, we have racked up real debt to our brother or sister.  And we MUST MAKE AMENDS.

You can NEVER hope to pay back God for your sins…

And if you try to actually make it up to your will take your whole life.  It will take EVERYTHING to EARN their forgiveness.  So thanks be to God that this isn’t how forgiveness works!  For this is a commandment with no qualifiers.  Forgive...when they have earned it.  No!  When someone has hurt us, when someone has racked up real debt, when someone has hurt us deeply...WE MUST FORGIVE THEM.

There are no qualifiers.  We do not forgive ONLY IF…

  • We do not forgive only if it’s a little thing.
  • We do not forgive only if they’re Christians too.
  • We do not forgive only if they have made amends.
  • We do not forgive only if they show real remorse.

There is no “only if” when it comes to forgiveness.

And why?

Because there were no qualifiers when it came to your election.

God was not up in Heaven, before the beginning, going through resumes.

  • I’ll choose this one only if she’s really smart.
  • I’ll choose this one only if he’s really kind.
  • I’ll choose this one only if they really deserve it.

No.  Your election was undeserved - you were 0% worthy of salvation, and 100% worthy of condemnation.  This is what you have RECEIVED.  This is what you must REMEMBER about WHO YOU ARE.

You are God’s chosen be God’s forgiving people.  And...what is have been forgiven, so now forgive.  Our second point.

Now, most of the time, we are appropriately awed by the doctrine of election.  The idea that, before the beginning of time, the sovereign good pleasure of God chose a definite number of specific people unto salvation, through no merit of our own.  This is an amazing doctrine.  A life-changing doctrine.  No-one can truly look at the doctrine of election and still have an ounce of pride left in himself when it comes to his salvation.

Election blows us away...but forgiveness?

The idea that God forgave our sins...maybe it’s because we hear it so often that it has lost it’s “blow away” power...but I think it’s something else entirely.  I think that we aren’t blown away by forgiveness...because we don’t really understand what forgiveness is.  So let’s change that right now.

What is forgiveness?

Well, are we talking about God’s forgiveness or ours?

Because they’re different...they’re different, and that’s precisely the problem.  They’re different, and they shouldn’t be.

When we forgive, it’s a short-lived overlooking of debt.

But God, when God forgives, it is a cancellation of debt

We we forgive, so much of the time, it’s just words.  We still want to make the other party pay, and so we reserve that right.  We forgive, but reserve the right to bring up the failure whenever we feel angry about it again.  “I’m over it...but remember that time YOU…”

But God, when God forgives, He gives up the right to punish.  He knows that He cannot, on the one hand, FORGIVE, and on the other hand, PUNISH.  There is no Hell waiting for those who are forgiven.

This is why we CAN have assurance of salvation.

And this is why we DON'T have it so much of the time.

As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

But we have it backwards.  Instead of us forgiving like Christ, we worry that Christ forgives like us.  That is, just as we grumble and groan here on earth about forgiving our brother or sister, Christ is grumbling and groaning in heaven about forgiving us.  Reluctantly forgiving, but not giving up the anger toward the other person.  Reluctantly forgiving, but not giving up the desire for revenge.  I’ll forgive you...but I’ll never forget.  I’ll forgive you, I’ll say the words...but I will not love you.  You’ve thrown that blessing away with what you’ve done.

This is what we do, and so this is what we think Jesus Christ does.

  • Sinners can get forgiveness...but maybe I’ll change my mind, and you’ll end up in Hell.  Depends on how I’m feeling that day.

  • Sinners can get forgiveness...but love?  No way!  You’ve lost my love years ago!  I tolerate you at best.


Let me share with you a story about forgiveness.  Real forgiveness and the fight for it.  It’s long, but worth our time to examine together.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch prisoner of war in World War II.  She and her sister were taken to a concentration camp for hiding Jews.  Among the horrors and tortures of the camp, Corrie’s sister died, but Corrie herself survived.  It was in that camp where Corrie learned the nearly impossible lesson of forgiveness.  But her challenges with forgiveness weren’t all behind her.  When she was released at the end of the war, she spoke in many churches on the topic of forgiveness.  And then, one morning, in the line of well-wishers, those who wished to shake her hand and thank her for the message, there was a face that she recognized.  It was one of the guards from the camp.

As she saw his face, his clothing seemed to change.  Instead of the overcoat and brown hat, it was the Nazi uniform.  And then appeared the leather crop swinging at his belt.  He came over to her and said: A fine message!  How wonderful to know that our sins are at the bottom of the sea!  You mentioned Ravensbrook in your talk...I was a guard there you know.  But since that time, I have become a Christian.  I know that God has forgiven me...but I would like to hear it from your lips as well...will YOU forgive me?  And he held out his hand.

And Corrie stood there, frozen.  This man who caused the death of her sister, who had caused so much pain and suffering...could he really just make up for it by asking this simple question?  By forgiving him, was Corrie saying that everything was okay?  That her sister’s death meant NOTHING?  She said that it seemed like hours as she wrestled with this most difficult thing.  She silently prayed: Jesus, help me!  I can lift my hand, but no more.  You supply the feeling.  And she raised her hand and shook his.  And as she did so, a current started in her shoulder, raced down her arm, and sprang into their joined hands.  This healing warmth flooded her whole being, and with tears in her eyes, Corrie said: I forgive you, brother!  With all my heart!

And if that was where it ended, it would be amazing enough.  But there’s more to this story.

Years later, Corrie was betrayed and hurt by some friends that she trusted and loved.  For weeks, she seethed with anger, and finally got to that place of forgiveness.  But then, not too long after, she would wake up in the middle of the night, angry about it all over again.  She prayed, again and again I’ve forgiven them Lord! Please help me forgive them again!  Then, after a while, there was peace.

Years went by, and an American came by to visit Corrie, and she had a little gathering with him and these friends.  Afterwards, he asked her Are these the same friends who betrayed you and hurt you so deeply?  Corrie responded Yes, but you see, it’s all forgiven!  He said, Have they accepted your forgiveness?

And with annoyance turning into anger, Corrie replied No!  They deny that there is anything to forgive!  They pretend it never happened!  But I have proof! Do you want to see?  I have letters proving this!  In black and white!  And her friend gently said to her: Corrie, If your sins are at the bottom of the ocean because of God’s forgiveness, how do you still have theirs in your home, etched in black and white?

Corrie was ashamed, and that very night, she took each letter and burnt it in her fireplace, and finally had peace.


You see, forgiveness isn’t easy, beloved.  It is not.  Forgiveness is hard...each and every time.  We HAVE BEEN HURT, some of us hurt badly.  $17 000 of hurt or more.

And, as they say, hurt people hurt people.  When you are hurt, you want to hurt right back.  It’s only natural.  Hurt people hurt people.  But.  As true as it is...could I replace that saying for you?

Hurt people hurt people, but forgiven people forgive people.  Forgiven people forgive people.

This is possible by turning our eyes upon Jesus.  When we turn our eyes on Jesus, then we are burdened, not by our hurt anymore...but we are burdened under the weight of the majesty, the glory, the mercy of Jesus Christ...the spotless sinless lamb of God who was crushed and crucified for the forgiveness of all of MY sins...then it becomes very difficult for me to harbour unforgiveness.  Impossible really.

But one of you might say...WHAT ABOUT JUSTICE?  The person who hurt me should pay a fine.  The person who wronged me should be in jail.  This is what they DESERVE.  An apology doesn’t change that.

To you I say, let me answer your question with a question.

  • Is the crucifixion of Christ enough to pay for the sins committed against you?

  • Is the torture, the suffering, nails through the hands and the feet, being forsaken by God, and breathing His this payment enough for you?

If it’s not...then I’m sorry, but that is the height of arrogance.  That the death of Christ could appease the perfect justice of God, but it can’t appease your sense of justice?  That’s wrong. That’s arrogant, and completely unChristian.

And I say this, myself, as someone who struggles with forgiveness.  I KNOW all of these things.  Each and every week I write two sermons where I reflect on the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Each and every week, I teach 3 catechism classes where we talk about forgiveness of sins and salvation.  Each and every week, I make visits where I remind members of their own forgiveness.

This is my work, day in and day out...but at night when I am alone with my thoughts, there are nights when I replay the horrible things that have been done to me through the years.  The cruel words, the insults, the injuries, the trauma.  And I feel justified in my anger.  I feel that holding onto these things isn’t just’s RIGHT.

And in doing this, I am living in sin.  I am living in sin, and must repent for my hard heart.  I must kneel down and pray as Corrie did - I’ve forgiven them Lord!  Help me forgive them again!

And when I do...I can rest assured that I AM FORGIVEN.


Because this, beloved, is the beauty and wonder of the gospel.

No matter how we have sinned - whether sin against the 1st, 6th, or 9th commandment

No matter when we have sinned - yesterday, today, a minute ago

No matter how long we have sinned for - a life apart from God unrepentant, or a life with Him


No matter any of these things...we can be confident that when we confess our sins to God, THEY ARE FORGIVEN.  They are cast into the bottom of the sea and God sees them no more.  God punishes them no more.  They are paid for, and our debt is cancelled.  This is what it means to be a Christian - a debtor no more!

We have been forgiven, and now we too must forgive.  And there’s nothing more Christian than that.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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