READ: Matthew 18
BACKGROUND: By Verse –
3 – Like children = Huge faith, trusting, unpretentious
6 – Harsh words from Jesus here. Millstones were used to grind wheat and other grains.
14 – How amazing is it that the God of the universe is not willing that any people get lost and exist far from him. He loves people and he wants to use us to bring that message to the world.
22 – Whether your translation says “77” or “70 times 7” the basic premise is the same. Jesus isn’t saying we should only forgive someone 77 times or 490 times and keep a checklist or something. Instead, he using these numbers to use illustrate numbers beyond imagination.
25 – This selling into slavery was not an uncommon way of retrieving payment for depts.
THINK: Sometimes I think that 2 year-olds are more representative of humanity as a whole than we like to give them credit for. It’s easy – and comforting – to pass them off as immature and temperamental and say that they’ll “grow out of it.” But I often look at my own life and the lives of the adults around me and wonder how much “growing out of it” ever really takes place. This is particularly true in the area of forgiveness.
My 2 year-old is great at giving forgiveness and not so good at giving it. Immediately after one of the many times each day where he’s been disobedient or stepped on his baby sister, or thrown food on the floor he is quick to say, “I’m sorry.” This apology – whether heartfelt or not – is usually followed by him immediately assuming that everything is okay with the world and there should be no consequences. How could he possibly sit on a time-out after saying “sorry” right? The flip side of this forgiveness coin is that he is not quick to forget when someone else makes a mistake that aggrieves him. He likes getting forgiveness a lot better than giving it.
If I’m brutally honest in a moment of self-reflection, I do too. I’m not sure I ever “grew out of it.” It’s so easy to apologize, but so hard to accept the apology of someone else who has hurt us deeply – especially if they’ve done it a number of times and the hurt & pain that are inflicted become a pattern. At some point we just want to stop forgiving – to cut the person off and say, “You’ve had enough chances, but it’s too late now.”
That’s what the disciples wanted to do. That’s basically what Peter asked to do when he eagerly and excitedly – like he was throwing out some huge, righteous, amazing number – asked Jesus if he should forgive someone as many as 7 times. But Jesus laughed that off. He said, “Seventy times seven.”
Try for a minute to put yourself in Peter’s shoes. You come from a culture where forgiving someone 7 times is seen a s heroic. You want to follow Jesus more closely and so you’re trying to step out in faith, and then Jesus turns and he throws your self-righteousness right back in your face and says, basically, “Seven isn’t enough. Any number isn’t enough. Forgive unconditionally!”
He calls us to forgive unconditionally because we are completely and unconditionally forgiven by him!
ASK: Is there bitterness or hurt that I’m holding onto today? Is there someone I need to forgive? Is there someone I’ve hurt that I need to confess and apologize to?