Two weeks ago we looked at what to do when someone sins against you, and how we respond when they are not repentant. We addressed that there needs to be love and a sincere heart towards that person. That in fact, holding them accountable is not about getting vengeance, but rather should be an attitude of rescuing your brother or sister. Today as we look at the rest of Matthew 18, we see the disciples continue the line of though as they naturally ask the question ‘what about someone who repents and seeks forgiveness? And what happens if they sin against you multiple times? How much should we forgive them? And every single one of us has had to forgive someone at some point. We forgive our parents, our friends, our children, our spouse, our neighbors and co-workers; Teachers and relatives. Forgiveness is so pertinent to all of us. In the passage we are going to see that in the church, we must offer forgiveness generously and without reservation. Let’s dive right in. Matthew Chapter 18, verse 21-25. We will read two verses to start:
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Brother Randy shared with me this past week that in the Jewish writings in the Talmud, Jewish people were instructed to forgive up to three times. Then if they sin against you again, you were free to distance yourselves from them; So, when Peter says should we forgive them seven times, he is actually expressing grace compared to the tradition. And Jesus responds with ‘not seven times, but seventy seven times, or in some translations, seventy times seven’. He’s not saying that we need to start keeping a record and logging the offenses until we reach 490, he’s exaggerating to say there is no limit and we don’t keep score. 1 Cor 13 says ‘Love keeps no record of wrongs’. Let’s read on.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
(a denari was a day’s wage, and a talent was about 16 years of wages, so ten thousand Talents was about 160,000 years of wages. That would be billions of dollars to us.)
25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (that would be about 3-4 months wages), and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Let’s explore this a bit. This passage stirs up some important and serious questions about forgiveness, as well as makes a fairly obvious point.