Sep 16, 2017
Focus Text Matthew 18:21-35
This will probably get me into trouble with everyone but here goes:
Peter asks a question. How much should I forgive 7 times and Jesus answers, no not 7 times but depending on the translation 7 times 7 or 7 times 70 Essentially as I said last week Jesus is saying forgive and keep on forgiving. Who in reality is going to count up to 49 let alone 490 times in how often they forgive.Peter asks a question. How much should I forgive 7 times and Jesus answers, no not 7 times but depending on the translation 7 times 7 or 7 times 70 Essentially as I said last week Jesus is saying forgive and keep on forgiving. Who in reality is going to count up to 49 let alone 490 times in how often they forgive.
Last week I reminded you to look at the context of this chapter. Its central themes are restoring the lost and the least. That is what God demands of us but more importantly it is what God does in Jesus. He welcomes children, he tells us to be great in the Kingdom of God is to be the servant of all, to become like the least and how important it is to protect the least. He is the good shepherd who goes out and finds the one sheep even though there are still 99 more.
Peter - no matter what has been done to you, you need to keep on forgiving. Even the least person you must forgive, and when someone strays not only should you forgive them you should seek them out. Isn’t this what Jesus has done. The traditional Christian formula is that God became one of us, a human being, our servant, he suffered the indignity of death on a cross, so that even the least of us could be restored to a right relationship with God and with each other. If God has done this much then we should love and forgive one another, and love our neighbour as our selves. God has loved, sought out and forgiven the least of us so we should love, forgive and seek out every human being from greatest to the very least.
Here to illustrate this Jesus tells the story of the unforgiving servant. To put it into context the first servant is forgiven for 150 years of a labourers wages. So the minimum wage for 150 years is what he is forgiven. In modern day Australia terms that would be $5, 413, 200. That is how much he has been forgiven. Even today that is a mind boggling figure. In contrast the second servant owes only $13, 898. Not nothing but given how much the first servant was forgiven it is almost nothing. This, Jesus is saying is what God has done for us. God loves us so much that we are forgiven of everything. That secret, that failure to act when someone was in need, that terrible soul destroying thing you may have once said, that precious thing you broke or stole. Those wonderful opportunities you had. Each of them is forgiven. You have no account to pay.
If that is true then you must forgive others. There is simply no choice. Think of how much God has given for you, his very self in Jesus, for the whole world. If this is what God is prepared to do to show and declare forgiveness for even the least of us, how should we respond? We should forgive those who have trespassed against us, those who we may feel owe us a debt. Not seven times, but at least 49 if not 490 in other words we forgive and we keep on forgiving.
I have no intention of telling you how to vote in the upcoming postal vote on same sex marriage. Perhaps that makes me a coward. I know that this congregation is divided and I know that is true of the Uniting Church as a whole.
What I also know is the Gospel, the Good News, and that is this. God loves you. God loves you like the one sheep that strayed from the flock and at great cost, the cost of the life of Jesus has sought you out and brought you back into the fold. He has restored you to relationship not only with himself but with the other 99 so that now the number is complete.
Over the years homosexual people, trans-gender people, transvestites and cross dressers have been treated shamefully. They have been bullied. They have been bashed. They have been jailed. They have been denied employment and promotion. They have been told that God hates them, that they are bound for hell. They have been ridiculed and reviled. Some have even been killed. Others have felt under so much condemnation and social isolation that they have committed suicide. This has gone on for years, decades, even centuries. As the debate about marriage and now the postal vote has been announced some of that has continued with some “no” campaigners doing and saying some terrible things. Another trend however has emerged. One example of this is the doctor who appeared in the No campaign ad. A petition was stared to deregister her, essentially because she exercised her right to free speech in supporting the No vote. At least one of the other women in that ad have had some truly awful things posted on her Facebook and twitter accounts. Israel Folau the Rugby player has recently expressed his intention to vote “no”. I had a quick look on line and discovered that he has had some rude criticism from sporting colleagues and others. Tennis legend Margaret Court has received some flack and has also lost an honorary vice patron role with a tennis club partly, but not only, over her strong support for heterosexual marriage. None of this is right, but as far as I know, no one has been bashed, thrown in jail, or killed.
As Christians whether we are for or against the allowing of same sex marriage how should we respond to these things. How should we respond to the vile and hateful things being done to us or others from, and to, both the yes and no cases? With anger, with righteous indignation, with a desire for justice, or recompense or even vengeance? No we should respond with forgiveness. As two of my favourite Bible verses puts it, “In this is love, it is not that we loved, God but that he loved us, and gave his son as the means by which our sins might be forgiven. If God has loved us this much, we should love one another.” 1 John 4:10-11 As Christians we should never make any response to anything, even something that is hurtful, without love. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 13 without love we are nothing but a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
Homosexual people and other minorities have suffered so much over the years, like Christians and also Muslim minorities (because it’s mostly Muslims killing Muslims) are suffering today in Iraq and Syria and in parts of Egypt, and Myanmar or Burma. By contrast we western Christians have suffered very little, indeed we have operated largely from a place of privilege. As churches we have some rights to discriminate under the law, we have some tax concessions, and we still hold a lot of property even if we don’t have a lot of cash these days. We have some other legal protections. Perhaps as we lose some of our privileges and move further away from the centre of the community we may in time need greater protection, but when you compare our lot with the lot of others in our nation and our world, who have suffered so much more abuse and discrimination, we really don’t have a lot to forgive.
If we move back to the personal for a moment as I said earlier: God loves us so much that we are forgiven of everything. That dark secret, that failure to act when someone was in need, that terrible soul destroying thing you may have once said, that precious thing you broke or stole. Those wonderful opportunities you had and squandered. Each of them is forgiven. You have no account to pay. Even if we owe 150 years wages, we have no account to pay. If God has forgiven us this much then we should forgive those who sin against us. Forgive them and keep on forgiving.