This passage of scripture has been heavy on my heart for quite a while. I have seen Matthew 18 abused, so called Christians hurt others instead of reconcile them to Christ, and take His name in vain for their own agendas. All while abusing His message found in Matthew 18. Now I end this series with the latter portion of Matthew 18 and tie it all in together to share the beauty I see in Jesus' message to us about conflict resolution.
Now after Peter heard all these things from the very lips of Christ our Lord, he had this question,
" 21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?"
Can you sense the sarcasm in that? Or perhaps he is simply unsure about just how many times we attempt to reconcile with someone who keeps hurting them. I would image it could be either both. Afterall, they were in the midst of persecution and the Pharisees breathing down their neck. The disciples must have wondered if Jesus meant to keep forgiving 'them' or if this teaching was for the average Believer who is willing to humble themselves and submit to Christ. However, Jesus' answer was firm,
"22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven"
Now does this mean seventy times seven in one offense or overall? Should we keep trying to be particular as Peter was, or can we simply see the heart of Christ in His desire to keep attempting reconciliation?
We know he mentioned to us that "..if thy hand offend thee cut it off..." But keep in mind that chapter 18 is not the only place Jesus taught about reconciling us to the Father. If we continue in the Light and those around us continue to be offensive we certainly are free to walk away, but not rudely or through abusive words or actions. Those who refuse to walk in the Light will eventually walk away themselves or be brought to submission through Christ in a series of consequences that are just for their sins. He shows us this through the story of the king and his servant.
"23Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25But 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.
26The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt."
The king was taking account of his servants. He was looking out for what they were doing or not doing. Keeping them accountable. He recalled that one servant owed him talents. The just consequence of an unpaid debt was to sell the servant and his family to pay for the debt. The servant showed an interest in remaining with his master by humbling himself and seeking forgiveness. There obviously must have been a good relationship between them for this servant to desire to stay with the master. Keep this in mind as we continue on; the relationship had importance to him.
As the servant fell down and worshiped the master, asking for patience and his declaration that he would indeed still pay the debt, the master forgave him and let him go free. This must have been a very good relationship, that the master would so quickly forgive.
Now after all this that same servant went out to one of his fellow servants, one of the kings other servants.
"28But 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.
29And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt"
I grieve over the fact that this servant who was just forgiven went out and did not show the same forgiveness toward others. Not only was he not forgiving, but he behaved with evil toward his brethren. He was harsh and bitter, insisting on such a harsh, unjust, punishment is not the way of Christ our Lord. The other servants saw what was taking place and they had every right to report the incident to the king,
"31So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32Then 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:
33Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
34And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him"
This kind of act is called 'wicked' by the king and this message was told by Christ our Lord. He said that the actions of the servant were wicked. An unforgiving heart and unjust actions are called wicked, in the eyes of Christ. The king had hoped that his servant would have shown the same forgiveness toward others that the king had shown him. Now Jesus sums the whole chapter up with these words,
" 35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
The king, in this story, gave the wicked servant over to the tormentors. This was a servant in the king's court and he likens this story to us and our relationships with one another. He has given us so much forgiveness and grace and we dare come against his little lambs with wicked intents! We should take this as a serious warning. If any leader is going to teach anything blunt about the teaching in Matthew 18, I believe it should be this part.
So our Lord answered Peter's question with a serious illustration. We are to keep forgiving. Are we to continue to put ourselves in harm's way? I don't think so. If God allows you to escape from a tormentors grip, then flee. Only you will know if God is calling you to remain for His name's sake. There may be times in your past that you can recall God telling you to flee and times when he asks you to stay. But the condition of our heart should remain consistent with our Lord's heart; to be reconciled to the Father through submission to Christ our Lord. In doing so we can be reconciled to one another.
Sisterlisa is a homeschooling mom of four children and married to a ministry leader of a Rescue mission. She is the owner of Growing in Grace Magazine and AGMinistries.