Today’s Reading: Matthew 17:22-27, 18:15-35; Mark 9:30-32, 11:22-25; Luke 9:43b-45
FORGIVENESS. FREEDOM. MERCY.
As we enter into this week’s holiday celebrations, let us consider the freedom we experience when we choose forgiveness and mercy. What would our life look like if we consistently LET FORGIVENESS FLOW and mercy show? What would it sound like to truly let freedom ring?
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two or three witnesses. If the person refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:15-20
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” – Mark 11:22-25
Here are two separate moments in which Jesus coupled the issue of forgiveness and restoration with the idea of our prayers being answered. UNFORGIVENESS BLOCKS OUR PRAYER LIFE. God’s plan is for us to be all about forgiving others and bringing restoration into relationships that are strained or in need of resolution. I am to walk into these situations in strong faith that God will be in the middle of it all, that He will be with us through our attempts at restoration. Our own forgiveness depends on our commitment to forgiving others, not just in our hearts but through necessary conversations.
“Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:9-15
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold – along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned – to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” – Matthew 18:21-35
Jesus lived out this kind of forgiveness. He knew he was going to be betrayed by one of his closest followers, one of the Twelve. He knew he would be handed over to those who were plotting against him. He knew he would be killed and how significant his death and resurrection would be to the forgiveness of all. Yet he lived an example of being a good citizen, paying the Temple tax in order not to offend those who were going to be instrumental in his coming death.
Father, reveal in me any unforgiveness. Strengthen my faith to believe that you will be with me in any attempt I make to restore a relationship or extend a hand of forgiveness. May the words coming out of my mouth reflect a heart of forgiveness – not bitterness, unforgiveness or gossip. Make me uncomfortable with any relationship or situation in which you want me to seek restoration. Transform my mind, precious Lord. May my life be described as FORGIVEN and not UNFORGIVING.