Live in Mercy

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Trouble in the Text: Peter asked how many times should he forgive.
Verse By Verse:
Vs. 21 Up to seven times: A generous offer, but not enough for Jesus. Jesus suggests unlimited forgiveness by using the number seven, which often represents totality or completeness.
Vs. 22 They should forgive continuously and without limit, just as God forgives them. The lavish nature of divine forgiveness requires the same response in human relationships.
Vs. 24 Ten thousand talents - Roughly 150,000 years’ worth of wages—an absurdly insurmountable debt intended to shock. Lord hints at the vast weight of our offences against God, and our utter incapacity of making him any satisfaction.
Vs. 25 Being forced into slavery to settle a debt was common in the ancient world, but Jewish law did not countenance the sale of a wife for her husband’s debts. The power of creditors have held their debtor’s insolvent since ancient times.
Vs. 26 Paying back everything was an impossible undertaking, given the absurd amount.
Vs. 28a This servant owed a miniscule amount compared to the first, 100 days wages.
Vs. 28b “Pay back what you owe to me” – an impossible undertaking, and shocking turn of events.
Vs. 30 Those who were imprisoned could not just wait in warmth, being fed well like today.
Vs. 33 The servant, who received a far greater pardon, should have readily extended forgiveness to the debtor. Since God has lavishly forgiven Jesus’ disciples, they should continuously extend that same forgiveness.
Vs. 34 Imprisonment is a much severer punishment in many eastern countries than here in the U.S. Condemned state criminals are not just but confined loaded with heavy weights, bring in constant discomfort and pain, whipped and beaten, and possibly killed by their constant torture.
And, they might never have the possibility of hope for release. Repayment would be impossible.

· Behind Peter’s question, “Lord, how often …?” are two possible concerns, one focusing on the offended party and the other on the offender.

· Experience suggests that there must be limits to patience with misbehavior.

· Either Peter is asking:

o “If my fellow Christian insults me repeatedly, must I go on suffering this indignity just because he always says ‘Sorry’?
o “Is it in the best interests of my brother for me to go on tolerating uncivil behavior when it is clear that his repentance is superficial and he has no intention of changing?”

· Jesus’ answer addresses neither of them. Both have been dealt with in the preceding paragraph, which encourages confrontation for offenses that threaten Christian fellowship.

· Jesus’ response transposes the problem from the sphere of ordinary human relationships to that of The Kingdom of God.

o A statement exhorting unlimited forgiveness.
“Seventy-seven times” or “Seventy times Seven” referred to an escalation of vengeance in Genesis. Forgiveness here is presented as it’s opposite response. Jesus disciples must renounce their ability to take revenge on those who harmed them.
o Jesus provides the theological grounding for unlimited forgiveness by means of a kingdom parable. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to.…”

· Peter’s question addresses a human problem from a human perspective, but the parable grounds forgiveness in the nature of God.

o The theological center is the astounding magnanimity of the king. So, it is with the kingdom of heaven. Those who wish to be part of that kingdom must imitate the incalculable patience and generosity of its sovereign (see 5:45).

o It is a mistake, however, to think of unlimited forgiveness simply as a matter of the imitation of God.

o Who is capable, by the mere exercise of the will, of becoming perfect?

Trouble in the World: Sometimes, we wonder how many times we should forgive.

· Whatever our religion or nonreligion, we must request and grant forgiveness almost every day of our lives.

Most of the offenses are trivial and unintentional. Forgiveness becomes problematic only when the trespasses are more serious, when they are intentional, and especially when they are repeated.
· “[What] shall we still say, but when we are once freely and fully forgiven, our pardon can never be retracted? - JW
Vs. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
· Pour out your souls to God, not only for those who did this once, but now repent: [if a brother or sister] after ever so many relapses, [they] give [you] reason to believe that [they are] really and thoroughly changed; then [you shall] forgive him, so as to trust him, to put him in thy bosom, as if he had never sinned against thee at all:—But [also] pray for, wrestle with God for, those that do not repent, that now despitefully use [you] and persecute [you]. “Whether they repent or no, yea, though they appear farther and farther from it, yet show them this instance of kindness… that you may approve yourselves the genuine children, ‘of your Father which is in heaven;’ who shows his goodness by giving such blessings as they are capable of, even to his stubbornest enemies. ‘For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the Publicans the same?’ (Matt. 5:46;)—who pretend to no religion; whom ye yourselves acknowledge to be without God in the world. In patience, in longsuffering, in mercy, in beneficence of every kind, to all, even to your bitterest persecutors; ‘be ye,’ Christians, ‘perfect,’ in kind, though not in degree, ‘even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.)” – JW

· Those who wish to enter the kingdom of unlimited forgiveness are without hope unless they turn and become like children.

Only utter dependence on our heavenly Parent will enable us to transcend human wisdom concerning how to deal with those who sin against us and to manifest instead something of God’s own way of dealing with sinners.

· We must not foolishly believe that we can earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others

Or, conversely, conclude that God is incapable of forgiving even so heinous a sin as our unwillingness to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply.

· Unlimited forgiveness is not to be confused with sentimental toleration of hurtful behavior. Christians are often guilty of forgiving too much and too quickly.
· A much more loving course of action is to insist that they amend their behavior so that they can regain that trust.

· This text is a corrective against a too zealous application of Vss. 15-20, by correcting a brother or sister too harshly.

· Offenses are to be confronted, but only in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1).

o Even when dealing with the stubbornly unrepentant, we must eschew vengeance and, by God’s grace, give evidence that we are ready to extend forgiveness because we ourselves have been humbled by God’s forgiving love.
Grace in the Text: Jesus says we should have mercy, like he had mercy for us.
Jesus also said: (Matt 5:44)
“Love your enemies”
“Bless them that curse you”
“Do good to those that hate you”
If you can do nothing more, “pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you”
This parable warns us that we must fervently pray for strength to resist the temptation of revenge and for grace to reflect the generosity of the kingdom of heaven.
Grace in the World: We must have mercy on all who sincerely ask for it.
We can and must extend mercy and forgiveness to others in all the ways we are instructed by Jesus because we are empowered by his Spirit to do so.
The chains of hurt and resentment that bind us to our collective sinfulness are broken by the Spirit of God moving us to continually forgive.
How might we help others to find freedom and wholeness and live a fully human life?
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