Proper 19 (11–17 September)
O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of Your Church, especially in times of persecution, and grant that what we ask in faith we may obtain; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Jesus just finished teaching how a church offender should be treated. This prompts Peter to ask how often one should forgive. Matthew adds a parable on forgiveness. Note the contrast in the debts: ten million versus ten dollars. Also, see the contrast in the mercy shown by the king versus the servant who was forgiven the huge debt. The contrast is relevant to the enormity of our sin against God in comparison to the sin committed against us. It is also plain to see that we can expect no more mercy from God than we give to our fellow men. The parable teaches that we are not to seek vengeance, but rather, to forgive. Unless we forgive, God will take back his forgiveness of us until we forgive. This is not an easy saying.
Why should I forgive? This is the question in many minds. The guilty person may not apologize, confess, or ask for forgiveness. Do we Christians forgive because the offender is worthy or deserving of forgiveness? Do we forgive because it is expected of us? A Christian does not forgive but for one reason — for Jesus’ sake. We forgive because of our relationship with God in Christ. Jesus spells this out. Why should I should forgive you?
1. Because Jesus ordered it — vv. 21-22. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
This passage deals not with the world, but with the church. The “brother” is a fellow Christian. This verse is related to last Sunday’s Gospel, which said, “If your brother sins against you.” It is assumed that the procedure was followed in 18:15-20, the brother realizes he has sinned. Again, “brother” indicates that Christians are sinners and stand in the need of forgiveness. The church, as is often said, is not a museum of saints, but a hospital of hopefully repenting sinners.
When faced with the option of forgiving or not forgiving there can be one answer – you forgive. My forgiveness does not hinge on my desire, my feelings, or even my wiliness to forgive. My forgiveness finds its basis on what Jesus has said to me. When someone sins against you – you, yes you are the one who must forgive.
The Greek word for “forgive” is “exaleiphein,” meaning, literally “to erase or wipe out.” Because Christians are imperfect human beings, the church is in need of forgiveness. Without it, members would live in friction, tension, disharmony, and disruption. Forgiveness is the oil that makes human relations move smoothly: Is the trouble with the church today the lack of forgiveness resulting in cliques and divisions?
2. Because God forgave me — vv. 23-27. 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 talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he, his wife, his children, and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “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, canceled the debt and let him go.
The King forgave His servant was unable to pay the debt. The debt was so huge that he could never bet back into the good graces of the King. The King forgave because the servant could not. The King forgave because He was good. That is what Jesus has done for you. God forgave not because you were good, not because you were deserving. He forgave because He loves you.
As God has shown mercy – were return mercy to others. That’s how forgiveness works. Out of His grace, Christ has made us new creatures. As Christ forgave so now you follow in the same tone when we deal with others.
3. Because God will judge if I do not forgive — vv. 28-35. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. 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 you 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 greatly distressed, went, and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled 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 turned 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 from your heart.”
Let not the sun go down on your anger. Refusal to forgive turns into rage and self-hate. It turns inward into depression. It can consume. It can destroy. These warnings serve us well to heed and consider. When we harbor and unforgiving spirit toward anyone judgment will befall us. When someone sins – forgive! Don’t dwell on the hurt and the hurt. Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you.
This Sunday we begin another program year of education within our Friedheim family. On this day, especially we remember those whose lives have been sacrificed in a war on terror. The greatest lesson we could teach our youth comes from the lips of our Savior – forgive.
The point the Savior makes is simple. The difficulty comes when we are called to act. That time will come; later today, tomorrow, in a few days, before the end of this week we will be called to forgive. It might become difficult to forgive and you might even be tempted not to forgive, or to hesitate because of pride, or simply because of the rush that we feel when we see how much power gives us! This is true, the most powerful person on the face of the earth is the person who has the opportunity to forgive and will not.
Will seize the opportunity or will it be squandered? When the times comes, to do as the Savior has taught, forgive as He has commanded. Ask Him to help you. Remember His grace offered to you. May Jesus help each of us to forgive from the heart as the Master Teacher has taught us.