Summary: So often we require justice, but we need to live out of grace, continually forgiving!
WHERE IS THE GRACE?
This past week we have been re-inundated with stories of terror. Stories of loss, shock, pain, grief…
By now we’re all too familiar with the scenes and the headlines
And I could go on and tell some of the stories of September 11, but I sense that we’ve really had enough of that.
For some the incident is too distant to cause much effect, for others it feels much closer. And for others perhaps we’re just too numb to it all. But the fact that remains is that this week we have once again been brought face to face with the Terror.
And what do we do with it? When the brokenness of the world invades our lives. What do we do when we experience our own ground zero? When we are hurt? When we are broken? When our trust in another is betrayed?
What do we do then?
When the event is past but the feelings of bitterness, hurt, agony, heart ache remain?
Well that is what the reading today focuses us on.
Peter approaches Jesus and knowing that Jewish tradition tells him to forgive once, twice, even three times but never four. Asks Jesus "How many times shall I forgive?" We read it as another one of Peter’s questions but really it is a question we also face.
We may not talk about it, but we most certainly face it when we find ourselves hurt by a friend again, or left out again of something we wanted to be apart of, or you find someone has been slandering you behind your back.
We face the issue that Peter speaks of more regularly than we realise, when we ask ourselves… Why should I forgive this time? Isn’t it enough?
And to this Jesus replies: As many as seventy times, or in some translations it says 70 times 7.
Now of course Jesus didn’t mean that we have to count each time, and when we get to that final number we stop.
Jesus set the number as more of a bench mark that says… Unconditionally you must forgive. Don’t forgive until you get sick of it and … then cease to do so, Or forgive until you think they don’t deserve it anymore… and stop Jesus says keep on forgiving.
Now for some of you hearing this today isn’t what you’d prefer to be listening to. Perhaps you’ve been hurt too deeply. Perhaps the pain is still too raw. Perhaps the act of forgiveness is too great.
I know that for you forgiveness isn’t the easiest option. It isn’t the most appealing option.. Seven years ago I heard in a sermon this quote:
When we forgive we heal the hurt we never deserved. When we forgive we heal the hurt we never deserved.
Jesus knew this and this is why he goes on to reinforce the importance of forgiveness by speaking out a parable.
As you heard the parable I’m sure you like me wanted to pin labels on the characters… the King is God… We are the first slave… But if we read the parable like that we run into problems! So let’s have a fresh look at it:
We see a king summon in his slave and say to him: "Where’s my money?" And the slave responds with the fact that he cannot pay… So the King says "I’m going to sell you and your wife and family and everything you owe so that the debt can be squared." At this the slave falls on his knees and begs for patience, so he can earn the money and pay off the debt. And the king responded by doing what????
He cancelled the debt… Wiped it completely off of the records.
Now the debt we’re speaking of is ten thousand talents, A daily wage for a slave of their time was 1 denarii The equivalent debt was about five million denarii. The debt was absolutely unpayable… the slave could never of payed off the debt. The only way this debt was to be resolved was by complete forgiveness.
Jesus wanted the people hearing this parable … who were questioning "to what extent we should forgive?" To realise that God offers us a forgiveness that is far greater than any reward we could ever earn. That is incomprehensible to the human mind. But a forgiveness that completely cancels our debt!
But Jesus doesn’t quite put the breaks on there… He goes on to talk about that same slave having been freed from his debt going out and attempting to collect the payments owed to him. Payments that were 5 hundred thousand times less the amount he owed.
It’s here where we discover more of the message that Matthew speaking through Jesus was wanting us to grasp. That the relationship between master and slave should be same as relationship between slave and slave. We are to treat others as we have experienced God treating us! We are to forgive others as we have received God’s forgiveness.