Community Group Study Guide — Forgiven and Forgiving
In our last study guide we focused on the Lords Prayer as Jesus addressed the abuses of prayer and how we can use it to exalt ourselves instead of drawing near to the Lord. The Lord’s Prayer was given to followers of Jesus as a “simple way to pray”. Jesus first turns our eyes to who our God is; he is holy, king and father. Next we are invited to pray for him to act in the world and that his kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. Finally, we are told to bring our needs to God; our needs for daily bread, reconciliation and deliverance from evil. What’s interesting about our passage for this study guide (Matthew 6:14-15) is that Jesus circles back on this aspect of praying for forgiveness and reconciliation. We wanted to focus on these verses because it can be a challenging passage and easily misunderstood. At first glance it seems to make forgiveness with God conditional and likewise forgiveness in general should be a natural part of being a Christian, but it can be emotionally challenging. The Lord wants us to see that knowing how much we’ve been forgiven empowers us and leads us to be forgiving people.
Matthew 6:14-15 shoes us that our reconciliation with others and our reconciliation with God are not mutually exclusive. Right relationship with God leads to right relationship with others. To withhold forgiveness from others is a show of pride and presumes that ones offenses are minimal compared to the offense of others. Ultimately that kind of attitude comes from not really receiving the amazing and life changing grace of God in Christ.
The point behind Matthew 6:14-15 is illustrated later on in the gospel in Matthew 18:21-35 which is a parable known as “the parable of the unforgiving servant”. That passage begins with the disciple Peter asking if there is a limit to forgiveness. Peter starts off with what would have been a really a generous suggestion for that culture by saying he thinks disciples of Jesus should forgive someone seven times. This was double the cultural norm (of three times) plus one. Jesus takes Peter’s statement and exponentially magnifies it to suggest there should not be a limit on forgiveness (Matthew 18:22). This does not mean that Christians should be used by others or suffer abuse, but rather since they’ve been forgiven so much they should be generous to forgive others. Jesus tells his disciples a parable of a servant who owed his master 10,000 talents which was a huge debt. To say that someone owed that much was hyperbole; 10,000 was the highest number the Greek language had a word for and a talent was the largest unit of money. This is like Jesus saying you owe a bazillion dollars today; he wants to stretch our imagination with how large this debt was. The servant was unable to pay the debt but begged for forgiveness and had his debt wiped away. The scene changes and the same servant finds someone who owes him 100 denarii, which is around three months worth of money. This debt is not insignificant but it is infinitely smaller than what the servant owed. Yet this servant will not cancel the debt even when he was begged to forgive (Matthew 18:29). The master hears about this and was angry. The servant was delivered over to the jailers and locked away in debtors prison, presumably for the rest of his life since he would be unable to ever payback his debt. The point of the parable is clear in verse 35, you need to forgive from the bottom of your heart.
The parable of the unforgiving servant and Jesus words at the end of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:14-15) point us to how the gospel shapes our relationships with others. Jesus took the debt of our sin to the cross to forgive us and reconcile us to God through faith. Your debt was greater than you know and God is quick to forgive repentant sinners, even if they have a huge debt. God desires for our right relationship with him to lead to right relationships with other people. Forgiveness is not always easy for us to do, but it is commanded and empowered by our understanding of the gospel and the Holy Spirit. Jesus invites us to bring this to God in prayer as we pray forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.
Prayer is a great place to extend forgiveness to others. You do not have to vocalize your forgiveness or wait for other person to ask for it for forgiveness to be “valid”. Instead, choose to no longer hold someone’s debt against them and release it to God.
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (ESV)
God forgives the repentant sinner and true evidence of being forgiven by God is having a forgiving spirit. The debt we owed to God was enormous but God, in Christ, canceled our debt on the cross (Colossians 2:14) and those in Christ are empowered to forgive as God has forgiven them.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Matthew 6:14-15
Out of everything the Lord’s Prayer covered (Matthew 6:9-13), why does Jesus reemphasize the need to forgive others?
Read Matthew 18:21-22. What does Jesus teach us about the limits (or lack thereof) of forgiveness?
Read Matthew 18:23-35. Discuss what you observe in the parable and what point is Jesus trying to make about understanding the forgiveness we’ve received and the forgiveness we are called to give to others.
One challenge with offering forgiveness is that we tend to minimize our offenses and magnify the offenses of others. How is this seen in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35)? What can we do to have the right perspective?
What are some common barriers people have with forgiving others? How do our scripture passages help followers of Jesus overcome those barriers and be people who seek forgiveness and reconciliation with others?