Our reading for this week continues to address the important issue of how we as Christians live in community with one another and how we respond to injury or offense. Last week’s sermon provided guidance for how to approach someone in the faith community who has hurt or offended another. This week Peter asks a question that might be on all of our minds…how many times? How many times do I have to do this before I can stop? What’s reasonable? Three? Five? Seven? Jesus’ response was mind boggling to the disciples and probably turned their world upside down. And when we consider Jesus’ words, his invitation, it may turn our worlds upside down as well.
This week we’ll have the opportunity to explore forgiveness, an issue that’s called “the common cold of spiritual pain” by one of my mentors, Richard Groves. We all tend to carry baggage related to forgiveness, sometimes hauling it along with us all our lives until it becomes so heavy we just can’t carry it anymore. We’ve probably all heard popular quotes like, “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” And while that might resonate intellectually and while we KNOW it’s better for us, better for everyone, to forgive, it’s easier said than done. Forgiveness is difficult work and requires regular and purposeful effort. Forgiveness is also a key dynamic in our relationship with God. How does knowing that we’ve received God’s forgiveness impact our desire and capacity to extend forgiveness to others?
I hope you’ll join us on Sunday as we explore this topic. Please know that all are welcome to join the Wednesday Bible Study that reviews the scripture and sermon topic from the previous Sunday and reflects on the questions that are listed below. If you’re interested in joining us from 11:30 to 12:30 on Wednesdays, please notify the church office or Pastor Lori and we’ll send you the Zoom link. Drop-ins are welcome! Looking forward to being together on Sunday!
Matthew 18:21-35 (CEB)
“Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Consider these questions:
- What’s your response to Jesus’ directive to forgive “seventy times seven?”
- In what ways do you experience yourself as forgiven? What is joyful/grace-filled about that for you? What is challenging?
- How do you experience yourself as forgiving? What are your joys and struggles related to forgiving others? Forgiving yourself? Forgiving God?
- Are there ways in which you hope to grow as forgiven and forgiving?