Since the structure of the Bible separates these two ideas, it would seem Luke has jumped topic. Luke’s writing, however, flowed one idea to another much like our conversations are prolonged because of one idea leading into the next. Without the print break, Luke would have written,
“If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents,
forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and
seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall
And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
It seems that Luke reports the general feeling of the disciples when Jesus discussed the need to forgive. It was unbelief. The task of forgiving in the measure Jesus was teaching seemed impossible. After all, the Law was quick with retribution. Shouldn’t Christ-followers expect the same eye-for-an-eye attitude? According to Jesus, the only “eye” association with those who sinned against you was the glimpse of the offender as the head turned to offer the other cheek. It was something the disciples couldn’t fathom, yet Jesus offered encouragement.
He told them that faith was a powerful tool. So potent, it could uproot mulberry trees and plant them in the sea. Their mulberry tree of offense could be uprooted by their faith in action. Through the medium of words, faith could unlock forgiveness for those whose bond of fellowship was threatened by repeated offense. Jesus illustrated how a person with a servant expected all requirements of serving to be met. The master wouldn’t just say, “Oh dear, you’ve been working in the field, forget taking care of my meal.” Or “Sweet servant, you’ve been tending my sheep, don’t worry about my sustenance.” No. The expectation was to labor AND to serve.
Christians were never supposed to use serving God in some capacity--say evangelism or church work—as an excuse to forgo working on relationships within the Body. The body of believers needs nourishment that only comes from right relationship, relationships nurtured by faith, a faith that springs out of love. Love is forthright. It communicates. It brings an offense before the offender with the attitude of patient restoration. It forgives until the offender can overcome his injurious nature, habit, or shortcoming that is causing the problem.
The key to that kind of attitude was found at the end of the parable Luke shared. When the servant who’d worked all day waited on the master, he didn’t demand praise for fulfilling his chores. Jesus said, “’So likewise you, when you are commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”’” Doing the right thing for our Master is foundational, and forgiveness of offense is the right thing. It’s a basic expectation God has of His servants as it builds camaraderie for unified Kingdom work.
Such forgiveness takes faith. Through faith, we can envision the best in others. This faith declares, “I know you can overcome. Together, we can beat this thing.” It uproots offenses from the fertile soil where they aim to grow and tosses them into the sea of forgetfulness because it believes in the value of the Kingdom, it recognizes the worth of the brotherhood, and it trusts the Master. Faith that forgives selflessly offers mercy, and it also humbly admits the truth that we ourselves are unprofitable and flawed. Though we desire to serve the Lord, we are prone to weaknesses and mistakes. As confident that we are in another’s victory, we are just as cognizant that our own failure is imminent. As a result, we can readily bestow forgiveness, knowing that we will need that same act of faith imparted to us when someone forgives us of our offense.
Tip/tidbit: Is there someone who continually rubs you the wrong way? Extend grace to them realizing you may also be offensive and have need of change.