FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
LOVING ONE ANOTHER
September 11, 2011
Today’s reading: Matthew 18:21-35
To love is to forgive. We are all sinners, and someway somehow we will do wrong and hurt others. When that happens, we repent and ask for forgiveness. And the proper Christian response of the one who has been hurt is to forgive.
Peter asked how many times, and Jesus said seventy-seven times (Mt 18:21-22). That means without limit. We are to forgive over and over again.
Now that is difficult. It is hard enough to forgive. It is more difficult to forgive the same person over and over again. And if it takes seven or seventy-seven times, that could mean the person is insincere. Are we to forgive even then? Yes. It is not up to us to judge the heart of a person.
How about if the person has grievously hurt us and done really serious damage? Are we to forgive then? Yes.
Notice that Peter says the imaginary brother has sinned against him but makes no mention of his asking for forgiveness. Are we to forgive someone who has not even asked for forgiveness? Yes.
Jesus told Peter the parable of the unforgiving servant. A servant owed his master a huge amount, equivalent to ten thousand talents. There was no way he could pay that in his lifetime. On the other hand, another servant owed him a much smaller amount of one hundred denarii, equivalent to 100 days’ wages. The master forgave the servant’s debt, while he refused to forgive the debt of his fellow servant. In anger the master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
Why should we forgive those who continually harm us, who might not even be repentant, who might not even ask for forgiveness? Because that is what God expects of us. If we do not act accordingly, there will be serious consequences. The master handed the unforgiving servant over to the torturers. Then Jesus says, “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Mt 18:35). If only out of fear of the Lord, we should forgive. But then, we ought to forgive from the heart, that is, not grudging, not forced, not reluctant, not with reservations. Not out of fear but out of love.
How can we be able to do that? We look to how God has forgiven us. Compared to our sins against a just and righteous God, the sins other people commit against us are puny. Jesus went to the cross for us, even when we were sinners, even when we were the ones who sent him there. Even when we were not asking to be forgiven. If God has forgiven us, then we must forgive everyone else for whom Jesus has shed his blood. Further, we do sin over and over again, but God still forgives us seventy-seven times. Thus, we are able to forgive because our focus should not be on the one who sinned against us, but on the One whom we sinned against.
Finally, as the Lord calls us to holiness, we look to limitless heart-felt forgiveness as a way to be formed into the very likeness of God, as we embrace the cross of suffering unjustly at the hands of others. It is easy enough to forgive someone who is truly repentant and who will not offend us in the same way again. But the true test is when we forgive, without limit, someone who might not be truly repentant, who has not asked for forgiveness, and who continues to hurt us over and over again.
In this way do we take on the very heart of God.
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