22nd Sunday after Trinity
LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matt 18:21-35)
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)
This Collect well summarizes the first five verses of Psalms 46: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
First, we note that the Church is not ours, but is the Household of God into which we are privileged to be called and chosen. It is not a prison, but a fortress. So what is the difference? Both a prison and a fortress are constructed of strong stone walls, high and guarded. Both enclosed a space to be occupied by a particular population. There are attempts at both to break through the walls and gates. “…..the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt 11:12) It may be possible to break through the walls of a prison, but not through the walls of the Church: “…..upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18) The Church, our fortress, is designed to protect against the evils of the world; but a prison (the world) is designed to keep its occupants in bondage.
Secondly, we note that the Church is to be in continual Godliness. We are not to enjoy moments of weeks of revival of Spirit and then sink back into mediocrity, but we are to continually practice Godliness! Sir Edmund Bowes states the matter in lovely and reliable terms: “What is Godliness? Conformity to the mind and will of God, – having the heart and eye turned towards God. See such expressions as, ‘a good conscience towards God,’ (1 Peter 3:21); ‘faith to Godward,’ (1 Thessalonians 1:8); and ‘trust through Christ to God-ward,’ (2 Cor 3:4); ‘alive unto God,’ (Romans 6:11). See how references to God is interwoven with Holy things? We read of ‘Godly sorrow,’ – ‘Godly fear,’ – Godly sincerity,’ – ‘Godly zeal,’ – ‘Godly men,’ – ‘Godly edifying,’ – ‘the doctrine according to Godliness,’ – ‘the Godly Seed,’ – Godly jealousy,’ etc. In the New Testament, the word GODLINESS is used frequently by St Paul, and by him chiefly in 1st and 2nd Timothy, – ten times in ten chapters. Was this because they were (with the Epistles to Titus) probably the last he wrote? As if the nearer he came to the end of his course, the more he viewed things with reference to God and Godliness.” It is true of all Christians, I believe, that they grow wiser in the Lord with advancing age. The sanctification process is being worked out in their lives in time to be ready and desirous to be rid of the troubles of the world and go to the blessings of Christ.
Thirdly, we note that God is our Fortress and Protector. Though we fear Him as a child fears to disappoint a loving Father, we do not fear Him as an enemy who wills to destroy our souls. The enemy of our souls remains without the Fortress (Church, or should) and cannot gain an entrance by breaching our strong walls. Well did the good Martin Luther sum up the protecting power of God and His Church in his greatest of all hymns – A Mighty Fortress is our God. That hymn is powerful because that hymn incorporates, in its every line, biblical truth.
Peace of mind is one of the fruits of forgiveness. Even when we are sure in our minds that we have been irreparably wronged, there is a sore spot in our hearts that says, FORGIVE.
The wrong done you will not result in the loss of an arm, or of one’s life. Go to that person who has wronged you. He is hurting more than you are. Frankly forgive him in the same way Christ forgives you.
A tree grows and produces fruit because of the outward benefit the leaves provide through the process of photosynthesis to the inward tree, just as the inner tree gives growthe to the leaves. If we take away the leaves, the inner tree will die. Forgiveness is the leaves of the tree of our hearts.
Peter seems to be the spokesmen of choice for the disciples. He is fearless in being open and frank. One of the others most likely planted the question in Peter’s mind – most likely Judas – the least forgiving of all. So Peter frames the question in a manner consistent with the law of Moses. He feels that seven times is a large number, but Christ gives him an answer that is intended to indicated that, like love, there should be no bottom to our forgiveness.
There are three stages of forgiveness that are consistent with the manner in which God forgives.
- When a brother, not one of the world, offends me, I should forgive that person in the silent chambers of my heart , but not yet openly. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Eph 4:32) The bitterness of unforgiving spirit is then taken from our own hearts.
- I do not inform him of my forgiveness for him since that would not be consistent with the manner in which God forgives. I
must go to him, in love, and rebuke him for his offense. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)
- Immediately upon the friend’s apology, you must inform him that he is forgiven. And if he trespass against thee seven
times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. (Luke 17:4)
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matt 5:22-24)
There are reasons for righteous anger and indignation. It spurs us to action to remedy a wicked circumstance such as rape, murder, molesting little children, etc.
We now have the parable of the Kingdom involving a King. That King is God the Father.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
In the days of this accounting, the amount of ten thousand talents was an enormous amount – more than $20,000,000. The King in this story represents God. The debtor – you and me. Without the remission of our debts (sins) we are sold off into slavery and bondage to Satan. In fact, we sell ourselves out to that merciless master.
We may deem it a simple thing for a great King to forgive even an enormous debt, and feel that we are justified in demanding the last cent owed us by a poor man; but though God is a great King, He has a great Heart and is willing to forgive. It was no simple thing for Him to forgive our sins and remit them. It cost Him the life-blood of His only Begotten Son!
A minister was discussing forgiveness with some school boys one day. One of the boys was incensed that his friend had struck him on the playground. The minister asked, “Jimmy, do you think, in view of the Scripture passage we just read on forgiveness, that you could find it in your heart to forgive another boy who hurt you, or struck you, on the playground?” Jimmy responded, “Y-e-e-s-s, Sir, I suppose I could,” and then added, “I could if he was bigger than me!” Well God is bigger than all of us. But He desires that we love others as a measure of our love for Him.
The debtor in the parable pleads for patience. Apparently, the King has long exercised patience with this man, and there is no more time for it. God’s Spirit will not always strive with man. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh (Gen 6:3) God cannot renew an unwilling spirit to reconcile that spirit to His own Spirit of Righteousness. Those whose hearts are not full of love and forgiveness do not belong to God.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
See how this unworthy servant has received such a mighty forgiveness, and at enormous cost (as you and me through the blood of Christ) – yet cannot forgive even a small debt (100 pence or three months average wage at the time) of a fellow servant of less means. He will sell him into bondage! This is not God-like. This is not Christ-like! This is very much like the devil that deceived Eve.
You may have had a dear friend spite you in a small matter, but the resentment has built in your heart – it has grown beyond the proportions of a normal Mustard Tree and taken over your whole heart. You are weary day by day and avoid even looking into your dear friend’s eyes. He is hurt by your behavior, but who suffers more: the offender, or the victim. Seeds of wrath in the heart bare trees of hatred and misery.
We have all fallen so very short of the righteousness of God that it is completely beyond our sight, but Christ gives us the means to assume that righteousness of His own. He forgives our sins, washes us clean, and is ever ready to renew our hearts when we repent of every offense. He suffered intensely for you and me. Can we not overlook the smallest infraction by a friend?
The criminal has no rest of conscience in constantly contemplating his being discovered. Many would find greater joy in confessing their faults and paying debt than in whiling away in constant fear. The sinner suffers no such dilemma. The King stands at the ready to forgive promptly and completely every sin confessed, and those unthought of sins unconfessed. We need only remove the shroud of false pride and bitterness, empty our hearts of hate, and come to Him seeking forgiveness in repentance. There is no cost to the sinner for such a benefit for the cost has already been paid by the King’s Son. If you have resentment and hate in your heart growing from unforgiven offences, open you heart to the Dipper of Love in God’s Hand and forgive all. Then you may have rest to your souls. Amen.