Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

April 23

(Matthew 18:23-35 NIV) "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. {24} As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. {25} Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. {26} "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' {27} The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. {28} "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. {29} "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' {30} "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. {31} When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. {32} "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. {33} Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' {34} In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. {35} "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.""

“I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter. But my will gets weak, and my thoughts seem to scatter. But I think it's about forgiveness, forgiveness, Even if, even if you don't love me anymore.”   Don Henley in “Heart of the Matter”

Today Jesus speaks to one of the chief sins of the church: un-forgiveness. 

We look at the unforgiving debtor in this parable and think, “He’s getting just what he deserved. He should have been more grateful and more compassionate.”

Then it soaks in. If we are a Christian, we are that forgiven debtor. Just like him, we have been shown great mercy by God. On the cross, all our debt was forgiven by our Master, Jesus Christ. When we are unwilling to forgive others who owe us, we become the unforgiving servant in this parable.   

One of two things is true about Christians who will not forgive. Either we have not truly experienced and accepted the forgiveness of God, or we have received that forgiveness, but have decided to live in disobedience to the will of God. 

There are no loopholes in this parable. What anyone else owes me is paltry compared to the debt that was forgiven on my behalf. My sin alone was enough to nail Jesus to the cross. And so was yours.

Forgiveness seems unnatural and unfair and unjust, but it is at the heart of Christianity. Our mind rebels at the idea of “bad people getting off the hook”, but that’s what happened when we cried out to God for mercy. It’s called grace and we are commanded to pass it on.

Forgiveness may be hard on us... but un-forgiveness is even harder. Un-forgiveness turns our hearts bitter and that bitterness will eat us up from the inside out. It’s like battery acid in a wooden box. Eventually the box will be devoured.

Un-forgiveness is a poison that will destroy us and harm those around us. Many of the physical, mental, social, and emotional problems we face today are the direct result of un-forgiveness.

It is also a relationship killer. That’s why unforgiving people often end up alone in this world. The only antidote is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard on us, but un-forgiveness is even harder. That’s why with Jesus, it’s the heart of the matter.  

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