It’s Wednesday. We hope that God has really been speaking to you through the podcasts so far this week. Thank you for continuing to join us.
Our theme this week is ‘Life in the Kingdom’. On Monday, we discovered we enter God’s kingdom by faith which is his gift to us. Yesterday, we then started to look at how we are to begin to live in response to his grace. Jesus spoke about the seriousness of sin and the need to allow God to help us to make tough decisions about how we live our lives. It’s no accident that Jesus then goes on to teach his disciples about the importance of forgiveness – this is today’s passage.
This passage is as rich and detailed teaching as you could ever wish to find on this topic. It’s really all there. I’d encourage us all to read this through in full at some point today. However, I simply want us to focus on verse 21-22, which we’ll read now:
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?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
We learn from today’s passage that forgiveness is something we just keep doing. We don’t stop forgiving. Because Jesus reveals here that God’s capacity to forgive is limitless.
Peter asks Jesus – how many times should I forgive a brother or sister? Seven? Within Judaic teaching, three times was considered sufficient to show a forgiving a spirit. Surely, seven is being more than generous with our forgiveness. Not so, Jesus says – ‘I tell you not seven times, but seventy seven times’. In essence, there is no limit to how many times we should forgive others. ‘If you follow me’, Jesus says, ‘then you forgive as I forgive’. And that means not keeping count.
There’s so much we could say about this really difficult and challenging text but for us today – God is simply reminding us again of that as we are forgiven, we are to forgive others. We pray this in the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes referred to as the Kingdom Prayer. Just as God is continually forgiving us, we are to continue to forgive others.
Why is this important? Because God wants to give us life in all its fullness. That’s the kingdom life. And holding others in unforgiveness is not the full life God wants for us, indeed died for us to have. It always gets me every time on the Alpha Course when they talk about this and they use the quote: ‘Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!’. When we don’t forgive others it affects us, but when we do it’s liberating. The word Jesus uses here for forgiveness literally means to ‘let go’ or to ‘send away’.
Jesus came to offer us a life of freedom. The truth is we can’t be truly free, if we continue to harbour resentment and unforgiveness towards others for how they have treated us.
But how are we to continue to forgive others when we have reached our limit? Back to our focus verses for today. They speak about capacity for forgiveness. God’s capacity for forgiveness is infinitely greater than ours. It’s back to what we looked at on Monday. It’s the impossible made possible. So this day, will we be kingdom people? Will we allow God to do what we can’t do – to forgive others when we’ve seemingly reached our limit?
Jesus, thank you that your grace and mercies are new every morning. Thank you God that you have forgiven us. That there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We believe it Lord. Help us to extend forgiveness to others – to those who have wronged us already this week and for those who will do so today and in the days to come. Help us to experience life in your kingdom, to know your rule in our hearts. May this day we know and live in the freedom you came to bring us. Amen.
READING: Matthew 18:15-35
‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’
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?’
Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 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.
‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
‘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.
‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”
‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’