Pastor Michael Frye:
I have four siblings in my family (three brothers and a sister).
We are stair-stepped, being either one or two years apart.
We love each other dearly, but as we were growing up we did get into some scrapes with one another.
When we did, our parents would step in and go through the same routine of finding out what we were fighting about, who was at fault–usually a point we all disagreed upon.
Then they would have us tell each other that we were sorry.
We hated that part, so sometimes our parents would overhear us saying something like: “I said it, but I didn’t mean it.”
Then, back we would go and run through the whole routine again.
One day the second oldest brother and I really got into it about something, and our father lost his temper with us for the first time, ever.
We were totally thrown off balance, and this time we were sent to our room.
About thirty minutes later, our father came into the room, sat on the bed and said: “Boys, I had no business yelling at you like that.
I apologize, and I ask for your forgiveness.
Wow, that was a new one to us – our dad asking us for forgiveness!
Of course we said yes, and we hugged; but we still had to serve out our time in our room.
Do you know?
In spite of the fact that we had plenty of disagreements after that day, we never really got furious with one another, and somehow we managed to forgive one another.
And, we never saw our father lose his temper to that degree again.
Simon Peter and the other disciples could get into some pretty good scrapes, too.
I wonder if that isn’t why Peter brought up the subject about how many times one should forgive another – and Peter was actually pretty generous when he asked, “as many as seven times?”
Jewish law only suggested as many as three times before one would be justified in withholding forgiveness.
Jesus stunned him when he said seventy times seven, meaning there should be no limit to the times one forgives another – or, as Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story would say: “To infinity and Beyond!”
Some people struggle with the whole idea of forgiving someone who has hurt or offended them.
The hurt can go on for years, or even decades.
Others feel ashamed of things they have done and can’t imagine how anyone, not even God, could forgive them.
Jesus teaches us a better way to relate with God, and with one another, by assuring us that God’s forgiveness has no qualifiers or boundaries – and neither should ours.
Our first lesson today gives us a good example of this kind of forgiveness.
Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, but when he had the opportunity for revenge in Egypt during the great famine, he chose to forgive them and showed great charity and love to his brothers and to their families.
The New Testament also teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven.
Just look at the contrast between the two servants in Jesus’ parable: The first servant owed his master 10,000 talents.
A talent in today’s measurements would equal approximately $240; so, 10,000 talents would equal around 2,400,000.
Of course, Jesus is totally exaggerating the amount that a servant could, or would, owe his master… but for a good reason.
The servant’s astronomical debt is forgiven, but he turns around and throws his fellow servant into prison for owing him 100 denarii, the equivalence of $5.
So, the master punishes the first servant for his incredible lack of compassion after he had been forgiven so much himself.
William Barclay reminds us that nothing we do to each other can even begin to compare with what we have done against God.
The debt of our sins cost God the death of his Son; yet, God forgives us.
How can we not forgive others as God has forgiven us?
Forgiving and loving one another are at the very heart of Christian fellowship.
In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul is dealing with church people who were at odds with one another about works verses faith.
Some wanted a very strict adherence to the laws of their ancestors, while others felt that their newfound Christian faith allowed them to ignore religious laws altogether.
Paul suggested that people of faith must treat the Christian who is still growing in the faith with patience and understanding. Above all, Christians should have no contempt for or ridicule those whose views may differ from their own.
The right to criticize or pass judgement belongs to God alone.
The role for Christian disciples is that of seeking to understand one another.
People who are on opposite sides of an issue must approach it with the understanding that both believe they are serving God.
People have the right to stand on their own convictions, but no one has the right to expect that his/her convictions are the only ones.
T. R. Glover wrote: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, but remember that someone thinks differently.”
As disciples of Christ, it is our duty to have our own convictions, but we have an equal duty to allow others to have theirs without regarding them as sinners or outcasts.
Through caring conversations, even those who disagree with one another may be able to find common ground upon which the blessings of God are realized and celebrated.
Church families are always seeking ways to find harmony in spite of differing viewpoints and positions.
Certainly, one way to do this is to take the time to know one another; to pray together; to study God’s word together; and to provide ways to resolve conflicts or disagreements quickly and mutually.
Jesus’ parable reminds us of the tragic consequences of not finding a way to forgive.
But, Jesus also reminds us that choosing the path of forgiveness and love unites us with the path he chose for himself, as well as for those who are committed to following him.
Let us pray:
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, but always
to your glory and the welfare of your people, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.