Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35
Key verses: 21-22 ” Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you seventy-seven times.”
Reflection: The first sermon I ever preached was on today’s scripture passage. I had just started seminary and hadn’t taken a preaching class yet, but confident that the Holy Spirit would do something with my interpretation, I forged ahead. I think I was able to do this because the need for forgiveness is universal. We all, at one time or another, have either needed to give or receive forgiveness. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant tells the story about a debt that would be impossible to repay. Yet, the gracious lord in the story is willing to forgive the debt that is owed. This parable is Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question about how many times to forgive.
Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. When we are hurt or we hurt someone a debt is created. If we are the hurt party, we may feel angry or helpless. If we are the guilty party, we may feel remorse and regret. The anger and the hurt make many people seek revenge or at least dream about it. The remorse and regret makes some people withdraw into themselves and quit living.
People are going to hurt each other in the church community – it is inevitable. The question is: how will they respond to each other when the sin occurs? If we receive the grace of God with joy and then lash out at another member of the church without regard, we are little more than the ungrateful servant in the parable. Forgiveness is something we need to keep coming back to. We may need to keep trying to forgive the same incident over and over again until our hearts catch up with our minds. We are called to show mercy and love the way God shows mercy and love. This isn’t easy, but it is a worthy goal. When we forgive, everything changes.
Prayer: Gracious God, forgive our foolish ways. Have patience with us as we seek to forgive, forgive, and forgive. Help all those who have been hurt to give forgiveness and move on with their lives. Help those who have hurt another to receive forgiveness for what they have done wrong. And, may all of us in the community of faith treat one another with respect, forbearance, and love. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].