The Church Forgives as God Forgives
These are the readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
One timeless truth we review Sunday after Sunday is this: God, in his boundless grace and mercy, has forgiven me, a poor, miserable sinner. One of the special blessings of having Christian friends is that they, too, forgive. Today, in his Word, God speaks to us about the correlation between being forgiven and forgiving.
First Lesson – Genesis 50:15-21
Joseph wept as his brothers spoke to him. Were these tears of sorrow or tears of joy?
Likely, both. There were tears of sorrow as it grieved Joseph to think that his brothers believed him capable of such retaliation. Also, his eyes welled with tears of joy over the evidence of his brothers’ complete repentance.
What comfort does the Christian find in verse 20?
God, in his love and providence, frustrates the evil intent of those who oppose us and turns the intended evil to work good in our lives, in this case, for the salvation of many.
Second Lesson – Romans 14:5-9
What advice does Paul give for the maintenance of Christian harmony and charity in the church?
Let him that eats not despise him that doesn’t eat, thus looking down with contempt on the weaker brother and his scruples with regard to food. On the other hand, the one that refuses to partake of meat should not condemn him that eats, as though he were less spiritual. Thus, the warning against judging is substantiated in this that God has accepted him. Do not pass judgment on a brother who is Christ’s own.
“Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (v. 8b). Apply these words to your life.
The mind of the Christian, whether he partakes of certain foods or not, whether he observes certain days or not, is always directed to the Lord because the whole life of the Christian, as well as his death, is devoted and consecrated to the Lord. Since his soul and body thoughts and acts are dedicated to the Lord, the believer will naturally think of his honor first in all things.
Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 4:29-5:2
Paul commands us not to act like the unmerciful servant, but rather: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of malice.” The Church is comprised of people who have been sealed for redemption, so let’s act like it! Not only kindness and compassion but forgiveness is the primary mark of the Christian. We forgive because God forgave us in Christ. That makes us imitators of God. Every Old Testament sacrificial victim pointed ahead to the death of Christ, the fragrant offering, and the atoning sacrifice that won our forgiveness and inspires our forgiveness for others.
Gospel – Matthew 18:21-35
Put into practical terms the meaning of Jesus’ command to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Christ’s answer is staggering! Jesus did not begin with an insignificant number, nor would he be tied down to any definite sum. No number can begin to show the greatness of forgiving love that is found in the hearts of Christians. There is no set number of times that we should forgive an erring brother and reinstate him in our good graces. Love and forgiveness go beyond petty calculations.
What makes the first servant’s lack of mercy so revolting?
Moments after receiving an immeasurable present of mercy from the king, the servant hunted down, seized by the throat, and choked a fellow servant who owed him an insignificant sum, then wreaked his vengeance upon him by casting him into prison.
Paraphrase the parable’s application as found in verse 35.
Ignorance and forgetfulness of our own guilt leave us harsh and unforgiving toward others. But remember, God will be merciless to the merciless. Without exception, he wants us to be ready, at all times, to forgive from the heart, just as he, in mercy, has forgiven our enormous debt.