soul blog inspired by Matthew 18:21-35
Psalms103: 3 says He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills
Isn’t that wonderful to hear how God is going to take care of us?
Yet this is not going to happen without effort.
The ancient Hebrews had to flee from slavery. It took courage to leave the unknown for who knew what. It took faith. It probably also took desperation. They had nowhere to go but up. Yet, when they did get away there were time that they looked back. There were times they made mistakes. There were times that they did not accept the holy power of God. They had seen and experienced the Red Sea open. They had seen the enemy defeated. They had heard the cries of the defeated. They had smelled the fear. They had been given freedom. Problem was they still carried with them many of their old ways of thinking.
Problem with all of us is that we are called to something new in God, but we don’t want to let go of the past. We just aren’t sure that it is going to really be better. Often, times of transition are fraught with discomfort. It doesn’t feel good so we want to go back to our old ways even though they enslaved us. We want to go back, because at least that was certain. It was painful, but it was definite and certain.
Now we are called in faith to trust the unknown, to trust God is there in the unknown. So we’d better get to know God. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know very well. What if he is an evil tyrant? What if it’s only sheer luck that we haven’t been wiped out because we live on the wrong side of the tracks, or are the wrong nationality, or support the wrong political party?
One of the ways we get to know God is by understanding what Jesus teaches. Forgive seventy times seven, Jesus says. That is pretty clear, don’t you think?
We are to forgive, and then that nasty person does again to us something we resent, but we are to forgive it again, and again.
We are not necessarily to reconcile with them. We aren’t to go back with them. We aren’t to go back to a life of slavery no matter what form it takes.
The ancient Hebrews, if they’d been in a covenant with Jesus’ teaching, would have known that they were to forgive the Egyptians for making them slaves and abusing them. They had to make bricks and work hours and hours day and night. Their children could be killed and there was nothing they could do about it. They need to forgive these awful crimes against them. But God doesn’t say, “go on back and make nice with them.” No. God wipes out their pursuers. God frees them to move on to something else.
So Jesus tells us to forgive and forgive and forgive.
Forgiveness frees us not the enemy.
After Jesus tells us about forgiving sins, he tells something troubling.
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. This is judgment. As the King began to settle up with the people in debt to him, a man came who owed him ten thousand talents.
Think of it like this, the IRS decides to do an audit. Or the probation officer decides to pay you a visit. Or your aunt, who is married to the Godfather Mafioso, who lent you a whole lot of money which you haven’t paid back says she wants to come to visit.
You owe 10,000 talents. This would be like owing what the Enron executives stole from their employees. Millions and millions of dollars.
So here is the king, someone with authority over you, and he says: give me what you owe me.
You stare at the floor because you don’t have the money.
The king orders you and your family sold into slavery, or back into jail. In a last-ditch effort, you beg the king to give you time to repay the loan. Surprisingly, the king forgives this massive debt “out of compassion.” If the parable Jesus tells ended here, it would be a wonderful story of God’s limitless compassion and forgiveness.
We’d all be saying, see, God forgives, and that’s that. But that isn’t that.
The Parable continues. Jesus tells us that the forgiven debtor rushes out to tell his family of the good news, only to run into “a fellow servant,” who owed him “a much smaller amount” (literally, 100 denarii, roughly a third of a year’s wage). Jesus just said we are to forgive and forgive and forgive, and didn’t this person just receive forgiveness. Wouldn’t he have figured out the importance of being able to let a debt go? But no. The person who was the biggest sinner in the world. The person who owes the most, grabs this little guy who owes him a trifle, grabs him by the throat and throws him into debtor’s prison.
When you were young and stupid, you slashed someone’s tires. You thought it was funny at the time. When you were caught and nearly had to go to jail, you got scared. But someone posted bail for you, and you got out, and you swore you’d never do it again. You weren’t actually convicted in your heart. It was really that you’d gotten caught that made you act contrite. So here you are, now 45 years old, and you have a brand new car with white wall tires. One day you come out of the house with your shammie to polish your beautiful car, and you catch the neighbor kid letting his dog do something heinous on your flashy wheels. It is only PEE! But you get a big stick and are going to beat the kid to a pulp. Fortunately, someone stops you. Where is your mercy? You received mercy when you were young? How come you can’t offer it now?
Part of the problem is that you didn’t really care about what you did. You didn’t face the enormity of your debt.
We rarely admit the enormity of what we owe God—our very life and breath. You hadn’t really asked for forgiveness, but you took it because it was there and it was free. It cost you nothing.
We are always doing that to God—accepting the Mercy that is offered to us unconditionally, but not actually changing a thing about the way we live, or think, or act.
Then, one day, we are confronted with our own bad behavior done to us, and we get mean. Jesus teaches Peter and us, “So my heavenly father will do to you unless each of you forgives his brother [or sister] from his heart.”
What is called for is a totally new way of viewing the world, metanoia (Mt. 4:17), a change of heart. The God who comes to expression in Matthew’s parables desires “mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6, see Mt. 9:13; 12:7) and summons people to be forgiving because they have experienced forgiveness.
If you are a slave, then you are suffering. If you are suffering, then you are a slave.
It is only through the love and compassion of Christ that we are freed from the enormity of our suffering. We are freed to lead a life, not without difficulty, but one that is moving us into a place of “peace” that surpasses all understanding. WE are freed to become the love of God in the world. WE are freed to end the suffering of other people, because we forgive them, and when we forgive them, we experience freedom too, we are unbound from the ropes and chains that tie us down and keep us burdened.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. This is no joke.
When we are betrayed, it hurts, and yet the answer is not in revenge, but in forgiveness.
Audra McLaughlin: “Forgive” (The Voice Highlight) contemporary
Including traditional Moroccan hymn
I dream back
To distant childhood memories
At the synagogue in Kiryat-Gat
Atonement day; shimmering hymns
Grandpa Mimon goes to pray
Grandma Sultana at the kerosene stove
Toils over the last meal before the fast
With a melody wrapped in holy scents
Soulful chants fill the sanctuary
The glorious scrolls infused with incense and snuff
On this day of forgiveness
There is no respite from its endlessness
Wishing the minutes away
Insufferable tension, awaiting
To sing out loud the soul-saving hymn
Moroccan Hymn: Oh God who is majestic, oh God who is majestic,
Grant us forgiveness at the time of the closing
El Nora Alila Beautiful and haunting–