reader may note that the placement of the section in Luke is deduced, not
stated. I am following Robertson’s order, which seems as good as any.)
Mat 18:15-20 NIV
"If your brother sins against you,
go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you,
you have won your brother over. (16) But if
he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be
established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' (17) If
he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to
listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (18) "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind
on earth will bebound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be
loosed in heaven. (19) "Again, I tell
you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be
done for you by my Father in heaven. (20) For
where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
commandment of Christ
must be recognized: much of our failure as Christians stems from sheer
laziness. He commands us to do something; we find that it will be hard work
and thus invent our excuses. Note that the imperative tense is used here;
Christ is commanding His disciples.
and most difficult, he commands us to forgive.
also commands that we correct the faults of our Christian brothers. (Am I
my brother’s keeper?)
need arises, we are to seek help in such correction, first in two-three
others, and if need the entire church.
the wisdom of this. Christ could have commanded a “take it to the church first
thing,” but he didn’t. He told us instead:
in private – just you and your brother. This preserves your brother’s
sense of shame, and does not attack his conscience. It also enables him
to repent without trying to defend his sinful behavior. By doing this discreetly,
we also preserve the reputation of the church. But remember: you are
going in alone – but not self-righteous.
that doesn’t work, take along a couple of witnesses. This makes it easy
to establish the facts (which may be in dispute). It also helps to
prevent private revenge, and adds the grace of social pressure to the
cause of repentance. If the matter should come out, it shows a good
example to the church.
if you have to take it to the church, do so. If you have an unrepentant
sinner who cannot be disciplined, you have permitted hypocrisy in the
church. At that the reputation of the church is at stake. Use the
greater social pressure as you can to bring the sinner home.
the wronged seek reconciliation
might think these are instructions just for the teachers and elders. It is not
so. The first person to know of a brother’s sin is usually a victim of it.
This does not lesson the responsibility – but does increase the power of the
we do in imitation of Christ; as we do so, we get the same results he does.
If we forgive, it is forgiven on earth and in heaven. But a warning must be
issued: reconciliation costs. As Christ proved on the cross.
Duty of Forgiveness
Mat 18:21-35 NIV
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother when he 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 talents 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) "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 denarii. 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 you 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 greatly distressed 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 turned 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 from
noted, step one in reconciliation is performed by the offended party, in most
circumstances. Peter immediately sees the problem: what if it’s a repeat
offense? Jewish custom said to forgive – up to three times. Peter thinks he’s
being generous at seven.
the Christian lives in the infinite love of God, not the finite love of man.
It may seem too difficult to forgive so often, but remember that you are one in
whom dwells the Holy Spirit – so when you cry for help in forgiving, know that
you will be heard.
God forgave, so must you
way of background, let us repeat the obvious:
you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. Your forgiveness at the Day
of Reckoning depends upon your forgiveness now. It’s a heaven and hell
forgiveness fulfills the principle of the imitation of Christ (“What would
Jesus do?”). To forgive is to become more like him.
forgiveness is so rare that the world will be at a loss to understand how
this could happen – and be an occasion to teach them about Christ.
you haven’t thought of this: in forgiveness, you can share the
“exuberance of joy”
that flows through heaven for the one in a hundred who returns.
might do well to examine the players in this drama.
we have the debtor himself. He is the model of the repentant sinner at first
(thus, judge not). He humbles himself; admits his debt and begs mercy.
Indeed, he is so humble that he dares not ask forgiveness – just a little more
time. All in all, a likely candidate for mercy.
we might look at the other servants. They are “greatly distressed” by the
debtor’s conduct. Well they should be; the man’s a hypocrite, which should
disturb the church. They report this, seeking justice not for themselves but
for the other servant with the small debt.
there is the master. First note that he is settling accounts – there will be a
day when God makes all come out even. This master, a picture of God, is quite
willing to be a terror to his debtors; the fear of God is still the beginning
of wisdom. The master is not at all unwilling to visit his punishment on the
debtor’s wife and children (highly motivational, I expect.) But he is merciful
– when asked to be so. Indeed, his mercy exceeds the debtor’s request for
time. But in his anger at such hypocrisy, he reverses that and increases
the debtor’s burden.
place or no place
Luk 9:57-62 NIV
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you
wherever you go." (58) Jesus replied,
"Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has
no place to lay his head." (59) He said
to another man, "Follow me."
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." (60) Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury
their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (61) Still another said, "I will follow you,
Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." (62) Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand
to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
is this connected? Most of us, when reading this passage, think it applies
mostly to missionaries in Africa. We shall see, however, that this applies to
all of us. Forgiveness is part of the price of the kingdom; here we shall see
just what priority the kingdom has.
is one sure way to identify pride. See what happens when it meets God; if
there is pride, God will be given advice or even orders. This man
underestimates Jesus, calling him “teacher” when the others call him “Lord.”
Jesus, in his reply, speaks to the heart. There is no material gain to be
found here, and there is no plan to change that.
seems a reasonable request. It’s not exactly required by the Law, but custom
so requires it. But Jesus sees beyond the funeral – to the reading of the
will, and the division of property. This will be a great temptation to the
what does Jesus offer instead? The chance to proclaim the Gospel, which gives
life. Over and again Christ calls for the one who will sacrifice all for his
curiosity remains: why did the man even ask? He thought it the right thing to
do; why didn’t he just tell one of the others there to let Jesus know? Perhaps
it was that he knew the answer in his heart – and was hoping to avoid the
meeting with the master.
sounds so trivial: I just want to say goodbye. Surely this can’t be
objectionable? It isn’t; the objection is to anything, no matter how trivial
and good, coming before service in the kingdom of God. Christ knows the heart
of a partial follower.
this to do with forgiveness? Simply this: if the Gospel is so important and
so commanding that it supersedes your father’s funeral and even the ordinary
courtesies of family life, how much more does it supersede your reluctance to
forgive? If Christ would demand such things here, how much more the
forgiveness he demands of you?
leave you with these:
the cost. If you are a part of the kingdom of God, then you will need to
imitate your Lord – even as He forgave on the Cross.
first the kingdom. Put all else secondary to it. Half-hearted
Christianity is like jumping the Grand Canyon in two jumps.
with the kingdom, forget about what might have been. There is no turning
back on the road to heaven.