September 13, 2020
Theme: . . . As We Have Been Forgiven
1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
21Peter came and said to [Jesus], “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
How many times-
Have you asked how many times.
How many times, you ask a child, do I have to tell you not to do that?
How many times, you think at least, do I have to listen to her-or him- repeat that annoying habit?
How many times, you ask yourself, do I have to do this?
How many times, you ask your spouse, do I have to put up with this?
How many times.
Peter wonders the same thing.
How many times does he have to forgive a tax collector—maybe even one, Matthew, who travels with the 12?
How many times does he have to forgive James and John for their pride, their wondering who will sit at the right and left hand of the throne of God, when Jesus brings in the kingdom?
How many times does he have to forgive the likes of a Samaritan woman?
Peter knows Jesus is gracious.
He knows, without a doubt, that forgiveness comes part and parcel with the way of Jesus.
So he gives a response right alongside his question
How many times? Seven?
Seven—as in the number of days God used to move the universe into creation? A vast number, a full number, a number full of color, breath, and life?
No, his Lord says.
Not seven times, but 70 times 7 . . .
And you can be that the answer isn’t 490.
70 times 7—as in the renewal of all of life through the Sabbath, infinitesimally.
70 times 7- as in creation given live over and over and over again.
And then repeat.
Peter talks of forgiveness in terms, a writer has said, of “reasonable generosity.” He understands that to follow Jesus is to forgive—but he wants to make sure that all of that doesn’t get out of line.
Jesus, instead, points ahead to boundless mercy.
In response to Peter’s question, Jesus tells a parable—which, someone has said, is a story that gives us a glance, or a glimpse, of the kingdom of God, how and where God works in our midst in regard to our past, our present, and our future.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.”
“Pity,” in this context, is not what we might think of—to feel sorry for. In the New Testament, “Pity” means to have compassion from deep within, as in “from the bowels”—which were thought to be the center of love.
And the 10,000 talents?
It was an unimaginable sum of money: A “gazillion” dollars.
The man owed the king money that could never in a few lifetimes be paid.
The king releases him from all that debt. Every penny of it.
Peter has asked how many times he is called to forgive.
Jesus says—there’s no limit. Release forgiveness, a million to the millionth power.
To forgive is not to excuse. It’s not to say to someone who asks for our forgiveness- it’s ok.
To forgive, we—and the one who has given wrong—need to come to the full awareness that something wrong, even grvious, has been done.
The man knows what his debt is and is painstakingly aware that the King does too. The man knows he has a whale of a lot to pay. And he takes responsibility for it. He admits it, head on.
The man knows that even as he asks for forgiveness, he needs to make a change: “I’ll repay you everything.”
To forgive is not to say it’s all good, it’s all released—and then to expect nothing to change. The release, after all, is the very thing that paves the way to a new way of being, a new way of relating. That which had given pain, sorrow, grief is let out, so a new breath can be taken.
Neither is forgiveness is something that is only to go one way. It’s like a ferris wheel, an ever-moving circle. Jesus’s way with us is 70 x 7—which cannot but pull us into the same action.
But that release—that giving for the sake and state of something new—
It goes on. And on. And on.
As God, revealed and incarnate in the One who tells this story, forgives you.