Monday, May 12, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 18

In today’s lesson we see both the power of sin and the power of forgiveness. Spiritually, they are the two most powerful forces in the universe. They are not equal, however. Sin has the power to condemn us. It is prevalent in every single human being that has ever lived. While it is all-encompassing, it is not all-powerful. Forgiveness is not all –encompassing because it still must be asked for. It is, however, all-powerful in that it breaks the power of sin. Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, it is available to everyone, but it must be asked for. It seems like such a small step, but amazingly it is an incredibly difficult one for many people to make.

The overlying theme of chapter 18 of Matthew is this premise. We see that it takes childlike faith and humility to enter the kingdom of heaven. We see that God is not willing that anyone should miss this wonderful gift of salvation, but it must be accepted. We see the importance of forgiveness not just from a spiritual perspective, but from a human perspective as well. This final point is one that I, as well as many others, have struggled with repeatedly.

12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. – Matthew 18:12-14

This parable perfectly illustrates God’s grace and mercy. There are many things I have done in my life that negate me from deserving this type of treatment. My anger has destroyed relationships. My lies have mislead those I love. My sheer humanity in itself means I have fallen short of the glory of God. Still, God has pursued me like a lost sheep and rejoiced when I was found. I love this about God’s character. There is no hierarchy when it comes to saving the lost. We do not have to get in line and wait for our turn to be processed through the salvation line. The grace of God is more than enough.

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21-22

This illustrates another critically important point about forgiveness. As we know, God has infinite patience when it comes to forgiveness. We continue to screw up even after we have accepted the gift of salvation simply because we are human. In that, Jesus continues to forgive us time and again. Therefore, we are asked to share that same amount of grace when we are wronged. I don’t know about you, but this is incredibly difficult. For much of my life revenge against those who have wronged me has motivated my moods to the point of where I was a mere shell of myself. It has been the fuel for my anger, but that fire has a tendency to burn out much too quickly and leave me with nothing in the end. What’s worse, there have been many times that that anger has been directed at myself, thereby making it even more counter-productive.

What does this all accomplish? I liken it to something I used to use my anger for with my workout regimen. When I would work out, I used to concentrate my anger to get the most out of my workouts. I used to think of it as preparation for any confrontation with the object of my anger, therefore I would imagine how the confrontation would go down as a boost to my workouts. Over time, however, this burned out my heart. It was only through the forgiveness that Christ asks us to practice here that I finally began to get around this hindrance to my personal growth. He merely asks us to show the same consideration to others that He has shown us.


1. Does God abandon others when He recklessly seeks the lost?
2. Why does it take the faith of a child?
3. What spirit of unforgiveness is holding you back?

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