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Matthew 18:21-35

A NOTE FROM PASTOR CHARLIE For these devotions from September 5 to September 18, I will be sharing devotions I wrote a couple of years ago for a previous blog. These will not be following the readings for the coming Sunday, but will still offer an opportunity for Bible readings and reflection.

We will be back to the assigned readings for worship once again starting September 19.

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talent] was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Some thoughts on forgiveness.

Have you ever been mad - really mad at someone? So much that you lose sleep over it, perhaps have trouble eating? Then you see them, and they appear perfectly happy - maybe they don't even know that you are mad at them? The inability to forgive steals our happiness from us, it causes us to dwell on the past, it desiccates our spirit, and can ruin our health. So forgiveness is, first of all, the beginning of our own healing.

Second, forgiveness releases us from the past, so that we can enjoy new relationships, new opportunities, new possibilities. Nothing is more pitiful than the person who continues to live in the past. A medical study done a number of years ago concluded that the biggest difference in both quality and longevity of life among older adults had little to do with genes, or disease, or any of the other culprits of old age or death. They found that those who were future-oriented, who enjoyed new experiences and saw the future as hopeful, were those who fared the best. Those who are stuck in the past, who harbor resentment, and who view the future with fear and distrust, do not fare well.

Henri Nouwen compares our lives to cups which must be emptied in order to be filled again. If we fill the cup with bitterness and resentment, unwilling to let them go, God cannot fill them with His promises. The most accurate translation of one petition of the Lord's Prayer is, "Forgive us our debts, for we herewith forgive those who trespass against us." God's forgiveness is difficult for us to grasp if we are so busy keeping the books on those who have done us wrong.

Third, we need to forgive because we have been forgiven. It is worth noting that it was Peter who asked Jesus this question. Later, after he denied Jesus, Jesus appeared to Peter and asked him whether he loved him. Three times he had denied Jesus, and so three times Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" The purpose of that encounter was to restore Peter, to let him know that he was, indeed forgiven. And Peter had to look back at this question that he asked, "How many times must I forgive?," and obtained great relief from Jesus' answer.

Let us pray: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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