In Luke 17:1, Jesus made a statement that probably surprised no one. He said, “It is impossible but that offenses will come.” Jesus simply acknowledged something that we all know to be true. We will offend, and we will be offended. Others will sin against us, and we will sin against others. It is inevitable in a fallen world. I’ve done it. I will do it again. And so will you.
Pastor James stated it bluntly: “For in many things, we offend all.” (James 3:2) He was not saying that we offend everyone. He was saying that everyone offends, and we do it in many things. We do it in our friendships. We do it in our marriages. We do it with our children. It is an inevitable part of life. Not that we excuse it. We don’t. Nothing in Scripture allows that. Every sin is to be confessed, repented of and made right. No offense, once brought to light, should be swept under the rug. Having acknowledged that, James’ blunt assessment is in perfect agreement with the words of Jesus. In this world, offenses will come. It is a truth that should surprise no one.
However, Jesus said something in Luke 17 that startled everyone. When you get a chance, read the entire account in Luke 17:1-6. In verse 4, we read these words, “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Period. End of matter. Not just the first time, or even the second time, but up to and including the seventh time. In a single day. “Forgive him.”
To a man, the disciples said, “No way! None of us have that much faith!” Lord, increase our faith!
The disciples rightly understood that the kind of forgiveness Jesus called them to demonstrate was beyond their capacity to give. It couldn’t be done apart from faith. Forgiving like that wasn’t something they could do alone, but only in dependence upon the one who had forgiven them.
The truth is, there is not enough grace in any of us to forgive like that, but there is enough grace in Jesus. And that is the point. If we respond to life’s hurts like everyone around us, we surprise no one. But when in faith we extend more grace than anyone expects of us, we frequently surprise everyone, including ourselves. We realize that such grace didn’t originate with us. We found it in Him.
When it comes to forgiveness, faith equips us to deal with the inevitable and do the impossible. May we, with the disciples pray, “Lord, increase our faith!”