Thursday, September 8, 2011

How Many Times Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus had a great way of teaching us the real truth about himself and ourselves as human beings: telling stories. Stories can tell us a whole lot about who we are and what we do sometimes even more clearly than just giving us a rule to follow.

In Matthew Jesus had been speaking with his friends about forgiveness. He told them that they had power in the church to set people free, to let them lose from their chains to sin, he even told them this power wasn't just about things on earth Matthew 18:18. Those released here are free in the eyes of heaven. The stakes are so very very high. What we do here matters not only here and now.

Forgiveness doesn't always seem like an eternal matter. Sometimes forgiveness looks just like a very practical business. Maybe that's the reason why Jesus' friend Peter came to him with a very practical question about forgiveness:

“Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Matthew 18:21 NRSV.
Jesus' friend wondered out loud about forgiveness. We might be tempted to ask the same question. Maybe you think the number depends. Maybe for little things a person could forgive somebody again. But some actions, some crimes, are so outrageous in that you believe they can't be forgiven. Peter seemed to be stretching for a big number when he asked Jesus if forgiving someone seven times was enough. Jesus said a number that's been translated either as 77 times or 490 times in Matthew 18:22. Peter thought forgiving 7 times was generous. Jesus asked him to stretch even more.

Jesus told his friends a story about a king and a servant in Matthew 18:23-35. The servant owed the king a lot of money. It was more than he could reasonably earn in 3000 life times. Pay me said the king. The servant begged for mercy and the king was merciful. He forgave the whole debt.

The story turned when the forgiven man tried to have his debt's repaid. He found a fellow servant who owed him a month's worth of wages. He heard the man's pleadings for mercy. They probably sounded a whole lot like his own begging. But he didn't show mercy like he'd been shown by his master. The forgiven man called the authorities and had him thrown him in jail until he could pay.

News like this travels fast. It reached the ears of the king. He had the servant who wouldn't forgive another tossed in jail. Jesus warned us not to remove the splinter from our neighbors eye without first dealing with the log in our own. Which standard do you wish God to judge you with; the one that you use to measure others, or the one God has set through the cross and rising of Jesus.
A lot of people prayed 10 years ago that there would be peace on earth in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United State. A lot of people asked God out loud about justice and righteousness as the seeds of violence and destruction were thrown about the earth.

The enemy wants us to forget about peace and justice, forgiveness and renewal. God's kingdom grows as we remember that we are both citizens of eartlbound nations and citizens of God's kingdom. Trust in God, not evil, trust in God's mercy, not vengeance. It takes is the faith of a little seed, hope in Christ, to have a reason gh to keep planting even when the enemy is working hard against you and God. Even when days are tough and grief is too real to ignore it's planting time for God's Word.

Every person has reason to forgive; but not every one with reason to forgive has let go of the hurt and let God handle it. Forgiveness happens after we name the hurt and turn the problem over to God and to the proper authorities. Forgiveness happens but it doesn't mean that we'll ever forget.

God has forgiven you; he's planting the seed in your life. Let it take root and flourish. In Christ you are forgiven by God. Remember that forgiveness is meant to change both one who forgives and one who is forgiven. You stand here today forgiven through Christ's blood shed on a cross of everything. The seed is in your hands. AMEN
Pax, John

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