Practicing Forgiveness in the Midst of Resentment – Br. Jack Crowley 

Matthew 18:21-35 

If you came here tonight expecting some lighthearted readings, I’m sorry to disappoint. You know things are serious when Jesus starts using words like prison and torture. So, what’s the cause of such gravity? 

Forgiveness. Jesus is talking about forgiveness. In our Gospel tonight, Jesus frames forgiveness in serious and powerful tones.  

We know the power of forgiveness. We know this already in our hearts. We know what an amazing feeling it is to forgive and be forgiven. We know those awesome moments of reconciliation when friends heal rifts and grow stronger. 

We also all know the power of resentments. Resentments have the power to strangle moments of joy out of our lives. Resentments have the power to keep us up at night, fuming in our beds. Resentments have the power to harden our hearts and make us into people we don’t want to be. 

Jesus knew human nature. He knew how much power forgiveness and resentments have in us. He knew our tendency towards resentment. He knew our resistance to forgiveness.  

How could he not? Jesus lived surrounded by resentments. The people all around Jesus, even those closest to him, were filled with resentments. They were fighting all the time. Jesus himself was the target of many resentments, all the way to the crucifixion.  

Jesus knew human nature and he knew what was good for us. Forgiveness. 

“Seventy-seven times” was Jesus’ famous answer when Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive another member of the church for sinning against him. Seventy-seven times, or in other words, all the time, every day, constantly. 

I love imagining Peter’s face hearing Jesus’ answer. I imagine the blood rushing out of of Peter’s face into his heart when he realized he wasn’t going to get a concrete answer. What a feeling that must have been for Peter to suddenly understand that forgiveness was not going to be a check-off-the-box exercise.  

I’m sure we’ve all been there before. Those come to Jesus moments when we were trying our best to forgive a resentment and realize it was going to take a lot more work than we thought. Lord knows I’ve been there! It’s a humbling feeling coming to know that our resentments are much stronger than we realized. It’s a humbling feeling knowing we are going to need God’s help in our movement towards forgiveness.  

So where do we start? How do we practice forgiveness in the midst of resentment?  

Start by owning your resentments. Own your resentments and own up to your resentments. Don’t deny them, they are perfectly natural, but don’t let them fester. Bring your resentments out to the light for God to see.  

From there, try being like Peter and move toward Jesus. Move toward Jesus with a hope of understanding how to practice forgiveness in your life. If you were to have an honest conversation with Jesus about your practice of forgiveness, how would it go? 

Jesus’ advice to Peter emphasized the constant movement towards forgiveness. We must be proactive in having a forgiving attitude rather than just waiting to play defense against resentments. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but it is worth it.  

Consider if you were to spend the rest of your life being as resentful or as forgiving as you are right now. Would you die happy? If the answer is no, move towards forgiveness.  

Finally consider how serious Jesus was about forgiveness. What would it look like in your life if you were to take forgiveness as seriously as Jesus took forgiveness? Ask yourself that question not with a spirit of shame, but with a spirit of hope. Hope that we can practice forgiveness in the midst of resentment. 

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3 Comments

  1. A. Walker on March 12, 2024 at 21:31

    Brother Jack,

    Thank you for the sermon. Forgiving is hard because forgetting is attached to it. I very recently forgave someone who insulted me (without provocation) a while ago. I was stuck in the resentment toward that person, so I had to work through that part of the process – not an easy task. I remembered Jesus’ words about loving one another and included that person in my prayers. This helped me to work through the resentment to forgiveness.

  2. Elizabeth A. Compton on March 10, 2024 at 18:14

    Dear Brother Jack, this was a timely sermon for me , Thank You. I will ponder all you said, and take it into my heart. I have followed your words since you first came to SSJE. You seem to be who you are in your writing, which I appreciate. I have been in 12 step groups for a long time and you remind me of the honesty that I often find there.
    Thank you,
    Elizabeth

  3. Maryan Davis on March 7, 2024 at 19:47

    Brother Jack,

    I am in the process of letting go of a resentment where I was willing and able to acknowledge my part in the an unfavorable situation with my Priest where he did not accept his responsibility.
    Surely it takes two to reconcile a resentment.
    Yet I believe Jesus has forgiven me and I am working on forgiving myself. Above all else it is a blessing to be forgiven and to find myself growing in my relationship in Christ.

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