Maureen's Weekly Reflection
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Reflection for Sunday, 13th September 2020
Last week I finished my Reflection by saying that it is not enough just to say that you are Christian you must LIVE your lives in such a way that people know that you are a Christian. Well, today’s lectionary passage (Matthew Ch18 21-35) gives us a perfect example of how that might work in your life. Read it through now.
I hope you can see that the actual living out of Christian values isn’t always easy. However, this passage deals with an issue that is very common in life. It is common in families and it is common in church families. It has to do with the dealing with the hurts that are caused between people. Yes, even in churches there are resentments and sometimes, quite bitter feuds!
One psychologist said that he felt that Christians were very much like porcupines on a cold winter’s night. The cold drives them to huddle together to keep warm, but as soon as they get close to another they start jabbing each other with their spines and that forces them to move apart; thus they are forever coming together and moving apart in a kind of slow dance
That mental picture makes me smile but it also makes me sad because there is more than a grain of truth in it. The only way we can get through this sticking point of resentment is by learning to forgive each other. Forgiveness is something we all enjoy receiving but, sadly, it is something we least use when we should.
It obviously was something that was on Peter’s mind. As is par for the course for him, he just comes out and asks Jesus a direct question. “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
He obviously thought that he was being very generous with his forgiveness by suggesting seven times. In traditional Jewish thought you were only required to forgive someone three times. After that, you could do what you liked! The rabbis based this on an erroneous interpretation of Amos’ formula “for three sins, yea and for four” which they said meant that God himself never forgave more than three times.
So Peter, having doubled the three and added one, was being magnanimous - in his own mind! However, Jesus’ reply put him in his place. It is as if he was saying “Peter, would you believe it if I told you four hundred and ninety times?” In other words, it is not matter of how often you forgive someone, it is a matter of why you forgive someone.
And why should we forgive? Well read verses 23-30 again. It should make uncomfortable reading for us. For the truth is that we are the servant who has been forgiven an enormous debt. God is the king who has forgiven us.
Let’s not think in terms of money here. Instead let’s think of our offences against God throughout the years. The times when we didn’t do something we knew we should have done or the times we did something we knew we shouldn’t have done. Our rebellious acts, selfish choices, hurts we have caused others, anger and bitterness. I could go on but I won’t. These all add up to an enormous debt to God. Not just for some but for all of us .None of us is perfect
The truth is, just like that servant, this is a debt that we cannot possibly repay. The good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to repay it. Our wonderful, merciful God, in Jesus Christ, has wiped all that debt out! Hallelujah!
Before we get carried away too much, though, look at the second story Jesus told. He knows humankind too well! In this story the servant who has been forgiven a huge debt, demands repayment of a small debt by another servant and when he is told that the debtor cannot repay it, he throws him in jail. How short his memory is!
But hold on a minute! Jesus says that when we hold back forgiveness from someone then we are just like that unforgiving servant. We, who have been forgiven so much by our gracious God, are not passing it on to others. If we are honest with ourselves we will see shades of this in our own lives
The rest of the scripture (vs 31-35) point us to the reasons that we should offer forgiveness. Firstly. It is hypocritical not to. We cannot expect others to offer forgiveness to us if we are not prepared to offer forgiveness to those who are in our debt.
Paul sums it up nicely in Ephesians (Ch 4 vs 31-32) “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and slander,together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving of one another as God in Christ has forgiven you”
The second reason is that not forgiving someone actually hurts us more than it hurts them. It leaves us with a gnawing resentment and bitterness. It is not good for our souls and it leaves us incapacitated. There are no winners here.
We in the church have to be better than that. We have to stop thinking about ourselves and start to think of how we can heal the hurts that have been caused. God has shown us the way by his graciousness and mercy. Let us follow his example and offer grace and mercy to others - especially to those who have hurt us. As a forgiven people, let us learn how to forgive others.
As I said at the beginning, the Christian life is not easy but, my friends, it is fulfilling. Why not give it a go? It really is worth the effort.
Lord, forgiveness costs so much.
I have to swallow my pride.
I have to absorb and not return the pain.
I have to wipe away the blinding tears,
So that I can see the person who wounded me,
As just another person, and not my enemy.
I have to take time to mend what is broken.
I have to let go of the past and live in today.
Lord, forgiving cost so much
And yet it cost you more.
It cost you torturing pain
It cost you death
But in that death was life for us all.
Lord, forgiving costs so much.
But hatred and resentment cost even more,
For they are wounds that fester and spread,
The wounds that lead to lasting death
Lord, give me the strength to forgive.
In the name of your crucified Son, Jesus Christ
My risen Saviour and my ever-living Friend
Almighty God - all good, all true, all loving
Your grace is too wonderful for us to take in,
Your constant and undeserved pardon too awesome for words,
But we thank you and praise you for it, even as we struggle to take it in.
Teach us truly to understand the breadth of your mercy and to attempt to live each day in the light of that knowledge.
Help us to reach out to each other with forgiveness just as you reach out to us,
Make us servants of your peace in this our land.
Lord God, the story of your love for us makes us realise that there are many others as well as ourselves who need your help and your grace.
So we bring our prayers to you
For those who suffer pain
For those whose minds are disturbed
For those who are wracked with guilt
For those who are engulfed with hopelessness.
Lord God, your Son, Jesus Christ has taken all our sufferings upon himself and
Help us, who offer these prayers, to go to those who are suffering and, by your grace, become the agents of your transforming love,
We ask this in Christ’s name.