Forgiving: the debt

24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. Continue reading

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Forgiving: the parable

Parable of the Debtors in context. 23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. The parable which makes up most of the rest of the discourse underlines the principle of unrestricted forgiveness which Jesus has just enunciated. Most of Matthew’s parables are introduced as illustrations of “the kingdom of heaven” (13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52; 20:1; 22:2; 25:1). Here that formula is especially appropriate, since the parable concerns a king and his subjects:  this then is how God rules. That application of the story will be made explicit in v. 35: the king’s action represents how “my heavenly Father” will deal with you. Continue reading

Forgiving: how much

The verses leading up to our passage (vv.15-20) outline the manner in which the individual and the faith community are to deal with the incorrigible members caught in the life of sin. Our gospel follows upon that “last resort” in dealing with this individual, which the earlier approaches have been designed to avoid.  To “tell the church” in the first centuries was often a public statement when the community is gathered, something inevitable if the problem is not solved in conversation. The object of the gathering is not to pronounce judgment but to strengthen the pastoral appeal, in the hope that the offender may yet “listen” (akouo). Continue reading

Forgiving: context

21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.28 When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’30 But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.32 His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’34 Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21–35) Continue reading

Sinning against you: restore

15 “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Continue reading

Sinning against you: context

Matthew 18:15–20 15 “If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.19 Again, (amen,) I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Continue reading

Receiving the Spirit: forgiveness

Pentecost3“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Many scholars see a parallel between v.23 and Matthew 18:18: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The parallel becomes clearer when we know that the words “forgive” in John 20:23 are the Greek words aphiēmi and krateō which mean “send away” and “hold” respectively [EDNT 2:314]. But even with the parallels aside, the meaning, extent and exercise of the Matthean and Johannine powers has been a source of division with the post-Reformation Christian community. Continue reading

Faithfulness: forgiving

The SendingWhen to Rebuke, When to Forgive?

3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”

The disciples are warned to be on guard lest they become like the Pharisees. Several translations take the term adelphos as “disciple” but our translation does well to let it be literal as “brothers” [and sisters], retaining the communal kinship brought about by their common faith and service. Jesus is stressing that even individual sin has a communal element in that the sin of one may lead others astray. This sense of community is made clear in the Matthean parallel: Continue reading

Asking Forgiveness

forgivenessThe Family Leadership Summit is an annual affair that promotes its conservative Evangelical Christian identity and values around the family. Given that it is Iowa based, it is no surprise that in 2015 the Republican-Party hopefuls were on the podium and present at “town hall” meetings. Given the audience and agenda, it should come as no surprise what kind of questions you are going to face – and, as any good speaker would pay attention to, what kind of language the audience is waiting to hear in any response. The questions came as no surprise: “What is your relationship to Jesus Christ? Are you saved? How does your faith form your political world view?” Continue reading

Which came first?

Simon-Sinful-WomanJesus turns to his host, Simon and says, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.” – and later Jesus tells her that her “sins are forgiven.”  When I ponder that short verse in the gospel, I have often pondered it as though it were a chicken and egg question. You know, which comes first love or forgiveness?  I think the answer is, it depends.

Scripture is clear that in the relationship between God and us, love comes first. Listen to the words of 1st Letter of John: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins… We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19) That seems pretty clear. As regards forgiveness, it is there for our asking, because God already and always loves us. Continue reading