MERCY WITHOUT MEASURE
Are you struggling with forgiveness? Invite the Spirit to use today’s reading to speak wisdom into your situation.
Read Matthew 18:21–35
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
Who has power to inflict deeper wounds: a foe or a friend? The closer the relationship, the more likely we are to tread on one another’s toes and the greater the potential for hurt.
Peter’s question relates to forgiving a “brother or sister” (21). As in yesterday’s reading, the context is relationships within the church family, where misunderstandings are inevitable. (Note: Peter doesn’t suggest if but when he is wronged.)
Jewish teachers taught that a person should forgive someone three times. Perhaps Peter expected a pat on the back for proposing the more generous number of seven. But Jesus’ “seventy-seven times” (or “seventy times seven”) (22) conveys the idea of countless times. God offers mercy beyond measure; however, hands clenched in unforgiving anger are unable to receive this gift.
The parable that follows, like the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:12), employs the language of debt to describe sin. The matchless mercy of the King of kings moves us from deep within, prompting us, urging us, empowering us to extend forgiveness to our fellow-sinners.
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). Do you need to do some uprooting in a relationship?
Lord, I am often ready to fault others when I am guilty of sin every day. Teach me to be merciful as You are.
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