Summary: The seventh and final sermon of a seven part series, ‘Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks to Faith.’
About 10 years ago on a July 4th I went with the family to a minor league baseball game. We sat in the grassy area of the ballpark down the first base line and during the game a fowl ball game my way.
It was spinning pretty well and I had a tough time getting a hold of the ball. Finally, I got a hold of it… well, I thought that I did.
All of the sudden, there was another hand on the ball and suddenly it was out of my hands. A kid about 12 years old came from out of nowhere and grabbed it out of my hand and took off with it!
I was livid and I was ready to go after that kid! In fact, some of the adults around me said, ‘you should have knocked him down!’ But I did not and I did not go after him either.
It took me a while to calm down but eventually I got over it. But I was very, very angry.
Now for some people they would have shrugged and laughed and not thought any more about it. For others they would have gone after the kid and a messy confrontation probably would have taken place.
Some situations do not bother us at all but they make others very, very angry. Other situations really make us angry and others respond with a look, or a word, that says, ‘What’s your problem?’
(Slide 1) We are concluding our seven week series, ‘Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks to Faith.’ In the past six weeks we have looked at the following stepping stones (Slide 2) and the following stumbling blocks (Slide 3).
Today we take a brief look at a big stumbling block - anger (Slide 4) and an equally big (and very important) (Slide 4a) stepping stone forgiveness. Anger and forgiveness are very much two sides of the same coin because what makes us angry often makes forgiveness difficult. My anger at what had been done to me at the ball park 10 years ago made it difficult for me to forgive that kid… at least for a time.
(Slide 5) Our main text for this morning is Matthew 18:21-22. ‘Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!’
A young girl who was writing a paper for school came to her father and asked, "Dad, what is the difference between anger and exasperation?" The father replied, "It is mostly a matter of degree. Let me show you what I mean."
With that the father went to the telephone and dialed a number at random. To the man who answered the phone, he said, "Hello, is Melvin there?" The man answered, "There is no one living here named Melvin. Why don’t you learn to look up numbers before you dial?" "See," said the father to his daughter. "That man was not a bit happy with our call. He was probably very busy with something and we annoyed him.
Now watch...." The father dialed the number again. "Hello, is Melvin there?" asked the father. "Now look here!," came the heated reply. "You just called this number and I told you that there is no Melvin here! You’ve got lot of guts calling again!" The receiver slammed down hard. The father turned to his daughter and said, "You see, that was anger. Now I’ll show you what exasperation means."
He dialed the same number, and when a violent voice roared, "Hello!" The father calmly said, "Hello, this is Melvin. Have there been any calls for me?"
In our text for this morning, I would suggest that anger (or at least irritation) at someone is implied in Peter’s question. But forgiveness is also on Peter’s mind. They are very much linked together.
‘How many times do I forgive?’ What was taught back then, according to one of my sources was three times. But Peter speaks of seven, the perfect number, and Jesus goes even further, much further and says seventy times seven.
But there is more to the story than Jesus’ simple answer of ‘seventy times seven.’ He goes on in verses 23 through 35 to illustrate exactly what that means. Let’s hear the story once again:
“For this reason, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. But the man fell down before the king and begged him, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.