March 21, 2017
Today’s gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
Disunity is often caused by hurts that we inflict on others. Then the response may be anger, resentment, bitterness, strife, all of which can lead to division. But there is a way out. It is forgiveness.
What does Jesus teach us about forgiveness?
First, it wipes away the debt that cannot be paid back. In today’s parable, “a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount .... he had no way of paying it back” (v.24b-25a). How can one adequately pay you for or erase deep hurts? The Christian way is the posture of the master who “let him go and forgave the loan.” (v.27b).
Second, we should not look only at those who trespass against us, but must realize how much we trespass against God. We do owe God a huge amount that we have no way of paying back. But when we ask (repent), God forgives us our debts. “I forgave you your entire debt” (v.32c). If we are forgiven, then we must also forgive. “Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” (v.33). When we forgive others, we look not at the debtor whose debt we are forgiving, but to God who forgave us our debt to Him. The focus is not the hurt or wrong done to us, but the wrong we have committed against God.
Third, the reality is that if we do not forgive others, then we will not be forgiven by God. “You wicked servant! .... Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.” (v.32b,34).
Fourth, we must forgive without limit. Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive, and offered a generous seven times (v.21). Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (v.22). Do we not continue to sin against God? Do we not repent and then sin again? As God does for us, we are to do for others.
Fifth, accounts will be settled in the end, and our forgiveness of others will be the decisive element in what happens to us. “That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.” (v.23). Jesus is our King who will judge us at the end of time. There will be a final accounting. If we forgive, we are forgiven. If we do not, we will suffer the fate of the unforgiving servant, who was handed over to the torturers. There is no greater torture than the fires of hell. “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (v.35).
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