Applying the Gospel to Our Relationships in the Church

Have you ever considered how important it is for you to be able to forgive those who sin against you either by what they do or what they fail to do?

Are you guilty of thinking that you need to wait until the person asks for forgiveness before you can forgive them for the offense that is wearing at your heart and causing you to struggle with speaking to them?

If these questions resonate with you and the struggles you are experiencing, you are not alone. The Apostle Peter wrestled with a very similar question. In Matthew 18, the apostle records a conversation Peter had with the Lord Jesus concerning this idea of forgiveness. And since nothing has changed in terms of people sinning against people, I suggest we eavesdrop on this conversation and see what we can learn. Peter asked, "Lord, how often will my brother [or sister] sin against me and I forgive him?" Wow! Two thousand years ago, brothers and sisters were sinning against each other just like today. In Israel, folks were sinning against each other, and in the church today people are still sinning against each other. We say the most unkind and uncharitable things to one another, and we are often guilty of using forums like Facebook, blogs and other social media sites to air our grievances to the world. And like detectives doing an investigation, our readers are able to connect the clues so we all know who we are talking about even when specific names aren’t mentioned.

So, what is the answer? How many times must I forgive my sister or brother when they say something nasty about me on a social media platform? Peter asked the Lord "Is it seven times?" Surely seven times for the same offense would be enough. Certainly the Lord does not expect me to keep on forgiving the same sister or brother over and over again, does He? Can’t I just be done with them? Can’t I simply unfriend them on Facebook, stop following them on my Twitter account, and sit on the opposite side of the church from them? The answer to this very tough question is found in the gospel. Yes, the gospel! Jesus answered Peter with, "I do not say to you seven times, but 70 times seven." And to drive His point home, Jesus went on to tell a story that comes directly from the gospel. In modern English, the story might sound like this today.

The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him tens of thousands of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, "Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all." Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him 58 dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. "Be patient with me, and I will pay it," he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, "You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?" Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. Then Jesus said, "That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart."

But you say, "I am saved. I don’t have worry about being sent to hell." Yes, you are correct, and that is the point of the story isn’t it? Saved people forgive each other. They aren’t easily offended and are quick to restore the broken friendship. They breathe grace and are known as peacemakers, and as such, they are blessed.

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