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We struggle to live out God’s vastly forgiving spirit

February 14, 2024

Daily Scripture

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times [Or seventy times seven]. 23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold [Or ten thousand talanta, an amount equal to the wages for sixty million days]. 25 Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins [Or one hundred denaria, an amount equal to the wages for one hundred days]. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’
29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.
31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.
35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The Christian season called “Lent” (a season of spiritual preparation for honoring Jesus’ resurrection at Easter) begins today with Ash Wednesday. (Yes, it’s earlier than usual this year, and Easter will be Sunday, March 31.) Click here for information about Ash Wednesday services at all Resurrection locations, as well as other activities and services up to and including Easter worship.   

Some rabbis said forgiving a sin three times was enough. Against that background, Peter likely thought forgiving seven times was huge. But Jesus’ story said forgiveness was much bigger. The debt the servant in the story owed was a whopper, equivalent to 60 million days’ wages (about 170,000 years of work)! Yet the king (i.e. God) showed mercy even to a man who owed “a gazillion dollars.” Then the freed debtor refused to show any mercy to someone with a much smaller debt.

  • Pastor Hamilton wrote, “More than any other world religion, Christianity… veritably shouts forgiveness. Yes, some of our preachers dwell too long on guilt…. a Christianity obsessed with guilt is no Christianity. Christianity is a faith whose central focus is not guilt, but grace, redemption, healing, forgiveness, and mercy.” * In what ways has God’s forgiveness been a freeing, life-changing reality for you? Is there a specific relationship in which you need to begin or deepen the process of “healing, forgiveness and mercy” in the weeks ahead?
  • It may bother us that Jesus seemed to say God will not forgive us unless we forgive others. Pastor Myron Augsberger noted, “This is not a legalism [an act that earns forgiveness], but states the expectation of responsible persons whose moral sense of responsibility will call them to express the forgiveness towards others that they have experienced from God.” ** In what ways does God’s forgiveness change how you see yourself, and prompt you to be generous toward others who have wronged you?

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. And even as I ask for your mercy, which I need every day, help me be merciful to those who wrong me, so that they and I may be free. Amen.

GPS Insights

Amy Oden

Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

In Matthew Jesus tells a story about a debt-forgiving king and score-keeping servant. It makes me wonder about my own score-keeping and if maybe that’s the thing I might give up for Lent?

What if I stopped keeping score about who is right and wrong, good and bad? What if I stopped keeping score about who helped who or about who is a better friend/Christian/mother/person? What if I just stopped?

My score-keeping is subtle and sneaky, usually not a fully conscious level. I’m keeping score when I carry on imagined arguments in my head to convince someone of my own view. I’m keeping score when I compare my life to the seemingly perfect and fun-filled lives of others on social media. I’m keeping score when I resent the time or energy I give. 

Jesus invites me into a whole new way of being–one that doesn’t keep score, doesn’t compare, hold grudges or demand pay-backs. This is the “wide-open, spacious life” (2 Corinthians 6:11, The Message). This is abundant life, the Jesus-Way Life.

So maybe for Lent I will fast from keeping score and see what wide-open space God opens up in my life to do a new thing.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Adam Hamilton, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. Nashville: Abingdon Press, p. 17.
** Myron Augsberger comment on Matthew 18:35 in The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 24: Matthew. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.