14 after Trinity



Romans 14.1-12
Matthew 18.21-35


Our Gospel reading this morning speaks about the importance of forgiveness. Peter asks Jesus how often he must forgive. Perhaps he has had a falling out with somebody and he is checking in with Jesus to see whether or not he’s done enough forgiving for Jesus to approve!

The gift of forgiveness brings so much with it; freedom, renewed joy, renewed life.  But it is so easy for us to justify why we should not forgive.  Resentment has been described as taking poison and expecting the other to die!  Lack of forgiveness could be similar!

Life can feel a bit like walking on a tightrope.  We can feel very wobbly and in danger of falling!  Have you ever knowingly been forgiven of something which has really troubled you and burdened you? How often should we forgive and how often can we be forgiven?

Peter suggests seven is the number of times that we should forgive, and I suspect that this was a number which Peter thought would both gain Jesus’s approval and with which Peter could cope! A reasonable number for most, possibly excessive for some!

Seven is an important number in the Bible.  Scholars say that it denotes completeness or perfection.

So, to forgive another as many as seven times is Peter’s suggestion.  Peter was probably shocked when Jesus replies ‘Not seven times, but I tell, you seventy-seven times’. A number which is representative of a never-ending number of times! We don’t see what Peter response is but Jesus gives the teaching about the King forgiving his slave and how that slave or servant failed to forgive another and was punished as a result.

Forgiving, as is admitting that we have done something wrong, can be a very hard thing to do but it is an act which brings freedom and life both for the one forgiven and for the one who forgives.

How can we possibly forgive so much! How can we possibly live up to this forgiving seventy-seven times? Surely, we are justified in forgiving a few times but after that surely the person deserves what they get?

Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 16.16) Peter has affirmed the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus confirms the truth of the statement. This statement of fact was based on faith given as a gift from God the Father to Peter. If Peter had not looked at the facts as Jesus shared his life with him but had looked just at his feelings, he may have given a very different answer. Peter with real faith looks at Jesus and declares that he is the Messiah; the expected Messiah that the prophets of the Old Testament had spoken of and had pointed to.

There are occasions in the Gospel story when Peter’s feelings overwhelmed him, as when in fear he sinks on the lake and when he denies Jesus; feelings are often a great gift to us. Joy happiness peace are all great gifts to us. But feelings also can lead to us making bad decisions.

Feelings of fear and worry which lead to anxiety can be incredibly undermining. In recent months during the pandemic many of us have felt overwhelmed by our feelings. We have struggled to pin down the facts, or spiritual truths, that would allow us to trust God in faith.

If we look beyond the terrible situation that we are going through to Jesus, trusting faithfully as we focus on Jesus, our feelings can follow the facts through faith and calm can come to us.

If we take the words of Jesus in our Gospel today about forgiving as fact, perhaps we can revolutionise how we live.

There is a story which you may have heard about three cats walking along the top of the fence.  A precarious thing to do at the best of times!  A task that would require balance and skill!

Imagine that these three cats are named Facts, Faith and Feelings.

Now as they walk along this fence, when Facts in front and Faith follows second in line keeping her eyes on Facts and Feelings follows up behind, the three cats are able to balance and make their way along the fence.

But if Faith looks back at Feelings, Faith begins to wobble and the danger is they fall off!

But if Faith keeps her eyes firmly on Facts then they manage to balance along the fence. If the order is changed and Feelings is in front followed by Faith and Facts, Feelings can be all over the place and the cats fall from the fence!

So how do we forgive seventy-seven times? Perhaps keep our eyes of faith firmly on Jesus  and his teaching, and know that he is the way, the truth and the life; perhaps by accepting the fact of forgiveness knowing that when we fall Jesus will forgive us and pick us up and that when we see others fall we can forgive them, pick them up, and move forward with Jesus.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Can you recall a time when you have known yourself forgiven?  How did it feel?
  2. Can you accept the forgiveness of God as a fact?
  3. Is there someone whom you need to forgive again?
  4. Is there someone whom you need to seek forgiveness from?

Page last updated: 15th September 2020 9:44 AM
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