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What goes around comes around

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Matthew 18:21-35
Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants ... "The master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brothers from your heart."

Peter thought he was being generous because Jewish tradition required only three forgivings of the same offense. But Jesus ignored tradition, looking only at how God forgives and expecting me to do the same. God forgives the same offense over and over and over again. Seventy times seven times and then some.

Perhaps I think at first I can take advantage of this unconditional acceptance by my Father. But eventually I discover that God's love really has rubbed me the right way. If I hang in there with God and don't beat myself up with guilt and shame, I discover that my desire to act in that particular sinful way starts to fade. God's love, like his word, does NOT return to him void.

Sin began with Satan and was introduced into the world by Adam. None of us now or ever has been free from sin. The difference between the one offended and the one offending is marked mostly by circumstance. One moment I am sinned against; the next I am sinning.

If I forget the closeness of offender and victim, then I fail to forgive. In that cloud of bitterness I am blinded also to God's forgiveness of my own failures. Oh what misery then for us all!

John Reid writes*,

We can learn several lessons from this parable:

1. Our sins are very great.

2. God has forgiven them all.

3. By comparison to the offenses we have committed against God, our brethren's offenses against us are small.

4. We should be so appreciative of being forgiven that we freely forgive others.

5. We must forgive from the heart, not merely in words. When we truly forgive from the heart, it is as if no offense had ever occurred.

6. If we do not forgive, God is justified in not forgiving us.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart by acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.


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