“Faithful Faith” seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it? But that’s what I see in today’s reading! Near the beginning of Luke 17 we find,
“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive“ (Luke 17:3-4 NLT).
There’s no room for unforgiveness, is there? “You must forgive.” How did the apostles respond? It makes me smile every time I read it.
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Show us how to increase our faith'” (verse 5).
“God, we can’t possibly do that on our own! We need your help to carry out that command!!”
Here’s how Jesus responded to their plea for more faith:
“The Lord answered, ‘If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!
When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty‘” (Luke 17:6-10).
His followers didn’t necessarily need more faith, they needed to be more faithfully obedient! Jesus commanded forgiveness, so they (and we) must forgive! It is expected of us as his servants.
Jesus was our example as He hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). We are not greater than He, and we should not think we have the right to hold others’ sins against them.
When we submit to Christ as Master of our lives, He is faithful to take care of us as his servants. The more we grow in obedience to him, the more we see his faithfulness in every area of our lives. And guess what? Seeing his faithfulness increases our faith!
Here are a few more verses on forgiveness, just to show this isn’t an isolated concept found only in Luke 17:
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
In concluding the parable of the unforgiving debtor: “‘Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart” (Matthew 18:33-35).
Forgiveness is not an option, it’s a command with consequences. Whether those consequences are good or bad is entirely up to us!
Following this teaching of dutiful servants in Luke, we read about the ten lepers.
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy” (Luke 17:11-14).
This passage is often used in teaching about thankfulness and wholeness, but I want to focus on something else important here.
These ten lepers did as they were told, even though it made no sense. They were cleansed as they went, and not before. There’s no reason to go to the priest if you’re still covered in sores, he’ll just send you right back out of town so you don’t infect anyone else!
They may not have understood why, but they had mustard seed faith to simply obey. Jesus said go, so they went.
And that’s how we should forgive–with mustard-seed-faithful obedience. We don’t know what will become of it, but that’s not our call. Our attitude should be, “We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty” (Luke 17:10).
Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash