Luke 17:1-6 (KJV)
1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4 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.
5 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
It is interesting that the disciples in this passage asked for Christ to increase their faith. What a Godly request! The context brings forgiveness before us front and center. Notice the standard of forgiveness that he sets before His disciples; 7 times of forgiveness in a day, or in other words, no matter how many times someone commits a trespass or an offence against you, you are not to put any limits on forgiving them. It is after this conversation that the apostles responded with “Lord, Increase our faith.” Its as if the apostles had come to the conclusion that to follow Christ’s teaching here would take more faith than what they had.
Little faith can accomplish great feats. In Christ’s response in v. 6, the extent little faith’s accomplishment here is in the emphasis on the roots. Sycamine trees were known for an extensive root system so to uproot it was an extra special achievement. Christ’s encouragement was act on my teaching with only a little faith and you will see Him accomplish great things.
Using what faith we have will help to enlarge our faith, just as using what muscles we have is the way to have stronger muscles. The apostles doubtless wanted some instant formula or gift from Christ that would give them great faith. Instead, Christ spoke to them directly and told them that they did not need more faith. The smallest amount of faith could accomplish the miraculous.
Coming back to the thought of forgiveness, it takes faith to forgive others. The offended are often consumed with the mindset that “if I forgive again, I will make myself vulnerable, and will become the victim again.” A bitter person often formulates excuses on why he can’t forgive when in reality it is a refusal to exercise the little faith that he does have. Faith is acting on God’s Word against our own reasoning.
There is something else here that helps the person who is offended. According to v. 3, Faith as a mustard seed should direct our hearts to take heed to ourselves and not to the offender in our lives. Faith as a mustard seed puts our focus on the right responsibility – our personal responsibilities before God.
Have you had a hard time forgiving someone lately? A husband or wife, a child who has hurt you or brought reproach to your family name over and over, a boss who has mistreated you, a church member who words are as the piercing of a sword? Exercise your faith as a grain of mustard seed and follow God’s path of forgiveness. Refuse to focus on the offender, instead focus on taking heed to yourself and granting forgiveness. Use the faith as a mustard seed that you do have to follow God’s Word, and then let God work!
Visit the pastoral corner next week as we start a new series of articles on “Portraits of Christ.”