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10 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 18.21-end.

I was once asked at a gathering, ‘What do you do if as a Christian you desired to forgive the people who killed all members of your family; and you know that if you went and tried to forgive and be reconciled to them, they would kill you immediately?’

This was a difficult question, and a very real one for at least one of those present on that day. How would you answer? I did my best, saying that it is not always possible to achieve reconciliation in this life, but that for our part as Christians, however difficult, we must learn to forgive as God continually forgives us our debts, sins and unbelief. After all, if we fail to forgive, sadly we keep bitterness in our hearts, which does us no favours. It robs us of the joy and peace which the Holy Spirit longs to pour into our hearts abundantly.

But does this mean that a Christian has to be a pushover? Spineless, unable to stand up for ourselves, and letting other people walk all over us?

Far from it. Sometimes by simply showing love, such as feeding our enemies who are hungry or giving them a drink if they are thirsty, by doing so we ‘heap burning coals’ (to use a phrase St Paul uses in Romans 12:20) of conscience on those who have hurt us. This gives them the opportunity to change, and, if they are open to it, to turn to God for forgiveness, and in time they may receive the grace to ask us for forgiveness. Our calling is ‘not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good’. (Romans 12:21).

Today’s story focuses on the importance of learning to forgive, in the same way as we have been forgiven by God in Jesus Christ. The point is that it is divine justice – if we have been released from a huge debt, then we have no business demanding from others what small amount is owed to us. Kindness begets kindness. God’s grace and generosity is infectious.

Is there anyone you need to forgive today? Is there a debt owed to you that you should forgive, and forget? Why not choose to be like God? For he ‘remembers our sins and our lawless deeds no more. And where there is forgiveness there is no longer any suffering for sin’ (Hebrews 10:17-18).

Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 18.21-end.

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, 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. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But 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.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’