Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Patience & Forgiveness

sitting on chain

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven."
Matthew 18:21-22

Jesus sets a high standard of forgiveness for His followers. I know that with me, He exhibits the kind of patient forgiveness described here. I sin daily in some way. That means in just a little under a year and a half, I have used up my 490 shots at forgiveness! I need grace from God. And that is what I get when I come to Him for forgiveness in confession and repentance.

Matthew 18 is all about both patience and forgiveness. The chapter begins (Matthew 18:1-6) with the disciples arguing over what makes a person "great" in the kingdom. And Jesus teaches them that simple childlike faith and humility lay the foundation for greatness, because they are required to receive Him and His kingdom. Then there are warnings about temptations to sin and that patient discipline is required to fight off temptation (Matthew 18:7-9). This is followed by the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:10-14. From there, Jesus gives firm direction on how to handle personal affronts from those who will sin against us (Matthew 18:15-20). After Peter's question, Jesus tells the lengthy parable of the unforgiving servant, showing the dangers of impatient unforgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

I know that patient forgiveness is not only what I need from Christ, but also what I need to practice with others. Jesus makes it clear that if I don't get that, I may not really be ready to receive all the grace I can right here and now. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the inability to forgive a fellow servant resulted in a judgment on THAT action. It is important to realize that the master did not punish him for old debts exclusively, but for the way in which he violently chose not to forgive those who owed him money. Jesus warned us that God feels similarly about our forgiveness hypocrisy.

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