Thursday, July 17, 2014

Forgiving Others

Matthew 18:21-35

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus had just explained how to approach resolving problems in the church, confronting the person and making sure both that they were actually in the wrong and that they understood what they had done.  If they were willing to resolve the problem, it should be dropped with no further action.  If they refused even when confronted by the whole church, they were to be treated as any unsaved person and not as a part of the church. 

Knowing how easy it is for people to break their promises, and how hard it is to break old habits, Peter asked how many times they should forgive a person if he didn’t follow through, since everybody deserves a second chance.  Since most people get upset after the second or third failure to follow through, he figured seven would provide more than enough chances.   Jesus said they needed to give seventy times that many.  Only someone who refused to truly forgive would remember that many times. 

If we can’t take any action until they have done it four hundred ninety times, it woud seem pointless even to point out the sin. It seems like we should just ignore it until we look at Luke’s account of this event.  In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus is quoted as saying, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  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.”

We are to point out the wrong doing.  If the guilty party takes responsibility for the sin and commits to changing, we are to forgive him, even if he does it again seven times in the same day.  After all, breaking old habits can be really hard.  On the other hand, we have no such obligation if he is not willing to take responsibility or try to change.  Jesus then procceded to give a parable about forgiveness. 

“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.  And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.  Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. ” (Matthew 18:23-35)

Because the servant begged him to postpone punishment, the King not only postponed it, he released the servant from any responsibility to pay it off.  The same servant went out and demanded that a servant who owed him a tiny fraction of the amount pay immediately, refusing even to postpone judgment when the other servant asked for the same opportunity he had asked the king to give him. 

When the king heard what he had done, he had the first servant imprisoned because he was unappreciative of what the king had one for him that he wouldn’t do the same for others.   God has forgiven us simply because we asked to, but like the king, will not forgive us unless we are willing to do the same for others.  It is a restatement of his comments in Matthew 6:14-15.  “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Ephesians 4:32 commands, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”  Our willingness to forgive others demonstrates our understanding and appreciation for what god has done for us.  

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