O God, whose grace and mercy flow like an endless river from your great being, help me now to place myself in the path your rushing love and limitless compassion, that I may find my spirit renewed. AMEN
Last week Jesus transitioned from FAITH to FORGIVENESS as his major theme. Peter asks the obvious question. “Lord. How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (21). I’m sure Peter thought he was being super-righteous in offering to forgive seven times. After all the previous standard was one for one – “eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth.” (Exodus 21:24). How much forgiveness is required? 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Let’s read the scripture.
Matthew 18:21-35 NIV
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
As forgiven disciples of Jesus Christ our forgiveness of others is beyond any count.
The forgiveness we have received from God is our life. As our lives are redeemed and
forgiven we must forgive. That is beyond 7 times or 77 times 7. To count is to measure or
limit. The consequence of forgiven disciples not offering forgiveness and instead seeking revenge is a tortured life. To limit forgiveness is to torture ourselves as we look forward to revenge. That is what happens to the ungrateful servant when he is judged by the King the second time.
Forgiven disciples are to live with gratitude for our new life and follow Jesus' calling in our
lives. That is our hope and calling.
Bishop N.T. Wright offers this commentary on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is more like the air in our lungs. There’s only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life they may desperately need, you won’t be able to take any more in yourself, and you will suffocate very quickly. … The key thing, …. is not that one should therefore swallow all resentment and ‘forgive and forget’ as though nothing happened. The key thing is that one should never, ever give up making forgiveness and reconciliation one’s goal.
Matthew for Everyone, Part 2 by N.T. Wright, Westminister John Knox Pess, Louisville KY. 2004. Pg. 39.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. – 2 Corinthians 13:14