Text: Matthew 18:21-35
For eagerness to forgive
For minimum wage workers
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I FORGIVE? Peter wants to a conversation about quantity, about the limits to forgiveness. I can only forgive so much, and there are so many to forgive, so much to forgive! Spouses, children, parents, siblings, bosses, co-workers, teachers, classmates, roommates, neighbors, the person standing in front or behind at the grocery, the hardware store, the pharmacy, the restaurant, at the traffic light, in the parking lot, on the street, and don’t forget that guy who just walked up, but whom you’re sure is a jerk…
Surely there is a finite quantity to forgiveness!
Now, contrary to what you might think, Jesus does not exactly disagree with Peter. There are limits of sorts. Limits were discussed in the previous verses, where Jesus gives instruction on how to address what we might call “civic” disruption, where the peace of the community is threatened. There are steps to take to curb the damage that outrageous behavior can cause. And, if the offending party will not be reconciled, then treat him or her as one outside the community—remembering that Good News is meant for those outside!
But here, the limit, the boundary is found within the heart. First, Jesus, with his phrase “seventy times seven” echoes the boast of old Lamech from Genesis, who declared that he would avenge himself…seventy times seven on any who did him wrong. Forgiveness is the antidote to revenge, and so one way to understand forgiveness is that it should at least reach the same fill level as our desires to see others brought low.
The parable about the servants and their debts suggests another limit: forgiveness is limited only by a thankful heart. The first servant, confronted with an impossible debt (a modern-day estimate is that it’s around ten billion dollars, to be paid off by a minimum wage job), finds his lord merciful. By contrast, the second servant owes around 5,000 dollars—certainly achievable with time. But, says the parable, the first servant looks on his fellow with a mean-spirited heart that is not touched by gratitude. Since he is not grateful, his capacity to forgive is of a very finite quantity indeed.
Today, take a moment to write down all for which you are thankful. See if you can find room in your list to include those who you will engage today. Let forgiveness flow from your gratitude.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks