In our discussion of 18:15-20, we have seen that Jesus taught the disciples about handling sin in the church, as we have gone through this, I was struck, as I always am, that there is one word that is notable for its absence: Forgiveness. Jesus didn’t use it, but Peter picked up on the fact that forgiveness is at the very heart of the discussion, and that prompted a question (as well it should have):
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (18:21)
This is such a familiar passage; we love to quote it, and teach it, but what is the context?
Jesus was teaching about sin in the church; “church discipline” as many like to call it, and in answer to Peter’s question, He tells Peter that he should forgive then 490 times, essentially, as many times as it takes to restore that person.
Funny thing, I can’t recall ever hearing that in sermons on “church discipline”, have you?
Of course you know that this is followed by the parable of the “unmerciful servant” who was forgiven a very great debt by his master, and then sent his fellow servant to prison over a very small debt. When the master found out, he had the unmerciful servant tortured until he paid his big debt in full, for the master had forgiven his servant, and expected the servant to do likewise.
Do I really need to say any more? Here are Jesus’ final words on the subject:
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (18:35)
Yes, this is still in the “church discipline” context.
See you next time!