Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22
Replanter, being a leader of change means you’ll be a target for critics, you’ll likely experience your share of wounds and certainly you’ll be the recipient of complaints.
How will you respond?
- When a long time member points a finger in your face and says that everything was going fine at the Church until you showed up.
- When you hear for the 100th time that the music isn’t good or it’s too loud.
- When you receive an email from one of the few young families that says though they love you—they’ll be leaving your church because they want better programming for their kids
- When your wife is attacked and verbally criticized in front of you
- When the friend that you sacrificed for, prayed for, got up and went out late in the night for….tells you over lunch that they’re moving on and leaving your church.
Here’s what might happen …
- You’ll be tempted to be defensive toward the long time congregant, you’ll want to point out that the church wasn’t fine before you got there—in fact that’s why they called you to come—to help it grow again for God’s glory and for the good of the community.
- You’ll fight hard not to roll your eyes at the complaints about the music and make a sarcastic comment that if the 50’s ever come back again—your church will be adequately suited to reach people with that style of music since it’s what everyone loves.
- You’ll feel sick at your stomach as you read that another family is leaving for better kids programming and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever be able to grow a great kids ministry when families find it difficult to stay.
- You’ll cry with your wife, stay up late at night and question God’s call to Replant because of the cost to your family.
- You’ll feel like you’ve been sucker-punched and you’ll be hesitant to serve, love or give of yourself ever again.
You might also hold a grudge, harbor hurt and bitterness and anger in your heart toward people you loved and served. You could develop patterns of relating and pastoring that keep others at a safe distance—thinking you’ll be able to pastor effectively and protect yourself at the same time—which never works.
Peter asks his question about the potential limits of forgiveness immediately after Jesus teaches about handling conflict within the church. Thinking he understands the teaching and attempting to make a practical application himself—Peter thinking he was being gracious, suggests forgiving up to seven times. Jesus raises the bar-he always does.
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
You may want to read legalism in to Jesus’ reply, but the point is, you can’t. Often, we do forgive up to a certain point—and then once someone crosses that invisible line we are done with them. Oh yes, we’ll still be sociable, friendly at parties, in public but the inner turmoil and the pain is just under the surface.
Replanter, as a servant of Jesus we’re called to love like him and forgive like him.
Study the ministry of Jesus and you’ll see that there were plenty of incidents with his motley band of followers where he could have fired them all and done a simple reboot—it might have felt better and been easier—but it wasn’t the gospel.
That Jesus kept this bunch of sorry sinners around shows us that we have a place in God’s kingdom and ministry.
That’s good news for all of us.
A Replanter must be Forgiving: possess a willingness to let go of offenses and not hold grudges
- Understands that “hurt people hurt others” and be able to see that some criticisms may be unfounded.
- Is slow to take offense when personally attacked
- Does not behave in a punitive way with those who may oppose forward progress.
Forgiveness is perhaps the most difficult work, but nothing else displays the glory of God and the goodness of the gospel better.
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense Proverbs 19:11
Published November 10, 2015