Sin is Serious – And So is Mercy

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 35 & 36 and Matthew 18

I have watched just enough mobster movies to know the awful fate of those who anger the mafia boss and receive the “cement shoes” treatment. That is the vision that always comes to mind when I read of the seriousness of leading a child to sin. “And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5,6 NASB) Jesus was giving a pretty heavy answer to the disciples who had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom. He answered that instead of trying to be great, they should focus on being childlike instead – not immature (we see enough of that), but humble, knowing that they don’t know everything and they need a Father and a Savior. And while the child is standing in their midst – Jesus commends those who welcome a child and blasts those who recklessly (or accidentally?) lead a child to sin. As a parent and a Christian this is a strong warning that I will be judged based on how I am spiritually leading and guiding God’s children. I do not know where the line will be drawn. We might be able to safely point out some cases that would definitely receive Jesus’ condemnation (those who exploit children and youth for sex trafficking, pornography, cults or gangs). But what of the parent who signs their child up for the youth sports, campouts and Sunday morning jobs knowing it will take them away from opportunities for God’s little children to grow closer to Him? I don’t know. But it seems wise to do my best to err on the side of caution. What else can I be doing to spiritually guide His children away from sin? Life is easier when you don’t feel the weight of a millstone around your neck or cement hardening in your shoes.

And, if that isn’t scary enough – Jesus broadens the picture next – to all people and sinners and the extreme measures that need to be taken to keep oneself from falling into sin. “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7 NIV). And then comes the gruesome cutting off of body parts that causes you to sin. This gives a strong mental picture of doing whatever it takes to hold oneself accountable and keep oneself from sin. If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out, to save yourself from judgment and hell. This is definitely true in a metaphorical sense. We need to do all we can, even what would be considered extreme measures, to keep ourselves from sin. And, sometimes that will mean cutting off the influence some people hold over us – cutting off a friend or family member or social media/entertainment who entices us to sin. It’s a hard thing to do, just like cutting off your hand – but it could save your eternal life. And, we must watch ourselves to make sure we are not the ones enticing others to sin!

While I love the parable of the lost sheep and it hurts to skip over it…I am going to skip ahead to the next two passages in Matthew 18 which both deal with the brother who sins against you. Having just established the seriousness of sin, the consequences for those who lead others to sin and the extreme measures we are to employ to keep us from sin – it is easy to assume that the best course of action is to shun all sin and sinners. But, wait, what kind of cut off, silent, lonely, bitter world would that be? While we are all sinners – God gave us a way to be forgiven and to restore relationships. Jesus begins to explain it here.

First, if a brother sins against you – go and talk to him. Matthew 18: 15-17 goes through an important series of steps to work towards either resolution or healthy distance and cutting off -and it starts with talking to the “offender”. Too often when we feel someone has sinned against us we talk to others about it. I know I am guilty of this and need to do a better job of lovingly confronting the person I have an issue with – first. So the steps Jesus laid out are: talk privately to the person, if he doesn’t listen take 1-2 witnesses and try again, if he doesn’t listen tell the church, if he still doesn’t listen cut him off. The goal is always to win him back to ‘God’s saving side’, not to humiliate, point fingers or feel better about ourselves or peace at any cost. But, sometimes repentance doesn’t happen, and then we must be willing to cut the ties that would bring others down to sin as well.

So, let’s assume we correctly followed the steps Jesus left. Peter asked how many times he needed to forgive a brother who sinned against him. He thought 7 sounded like a lot. But Jesus said no – 77 or 70 x 7 or whatever number you want to use to remind yourself to keep forgiving – the same way you want others to forgive you. And the same way God has forgiven you. I think we can safely assume this is not the brother who was unrepentant and cast out of the church, but a brother who was repentant and seeking to live a godly life – but still tripped up – like you and me. And so Jesus lays out the powerful Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (make sure you read it again). Now the harsh words and judgment are not for the sinner who tripped up, or even the one who caused him to sin, but for the one who didn’t forgive. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” (Matthew 18:32-34).

It isn’t that sin is nothing – and easily forgiven. Sin (of all kinds) is something huge and serious and able to block us from eternal life. If we could see how much our sin hurts others, handicaps ourself and damages our relationship with God we might more readily run from it. But we don’t always, and God in His mercy still lays out a way for us to restore a relationship with Him, ultimately it would cost Him the death of His Son Jesus. To accept the forgiveness offered to you, but not extend it to others puts you again in grave danger. Sin is a big deal – and so is mercy.

-Marcia Railton

Forgiven to Forgive

Matthew 18

One parable that comes up many times when you talk about forgiveness is the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  This parable demonstrates how we should forgive others no matter how big their sin is.  But to understand this parable best, we have to understand to whom Jesus was teaching, why Jesus was teaching this parable, and what happened before Jesus started telling the parable.

Before Jesus taught the parable, Peter asks in Matthew 18:21 “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  To him, it probably felt like he was doing more than he needed to by forgiving others that many times.  But Jesus responded that you should forgive others up to seventy times seven times.

After saying this, Jesus goes into the teaching of the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  The parable starts by telling how the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.  One of the slaves who had been brought to the king owed him ten thousand talents, which was equal to 20 years of work.  Since the slave could not pay back the money, the king ordered for the slave, his family, and everything he owned to be sold.  The slave pleaded with the king and asked for time to repay everything back to the king.  The king then cancelled the slave’s dept in mercy towards him.

Just like the slave, we are in the debt of God.  The ten thousand talents which the slave could not repay back is like our sins.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Our response to God is to ask for the forgiveness of our sins, just like what the slave did.  Through mercy, God grants us that forgiveness and cancels our sins.

We are like the slave in the beginning of the parable, but we do not want to be like the slave at the end of the parable.  After leaving the king’s presence, the slave finds a fellow slave who owes him a hundred denarii, and demands to be repaid.  One denarius was worth one day’s wage.  The fellow slave pleaded with the slave, asking for time to repay his debt.  The slave, however, did not show mercy to his fellow slave and had him thrown in jail.  Other slaves who were watching this unfold, went and reported to the king what they had just seen.  When the king found out what had happened, he was very angry for he had shown mercy to the slave, but the slave would not show that same mercy to others.  Because the slave had thrown his fellow slave in jail for owing a debt, the king threw the slave in jail for owing him debt.

This parable concludes with Jesus explaining how if we do not forgive others, God will treat us the same way.  We have been shown mercy by God, deserving to be punished but instead were forgiven.  In the same way, we need to show mercy and forgiveness to others who sin against us.  Matthew 6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  We want that forgiveness from God, and to receive it we must forgive others who sin against us.  If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.  

Saying that we forgive somebody, but not truly forgiving them in your heart, is not real forgiveness.  The forgiveness towards others must come from our hearts to count.  Matthew 18:35 states, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”  In every version that I have looked at, it explicitly states that it must be from your heart.

When forgiveness comes from our hearts, we are forgiving others with no pride or desire for revenge.  If we have pride or a desire for revenge, there is no true repentance or forgiveness.  The slave in the parable did not have true repentance and forgiveness, which caused him to not forgive others.  He had not truly repented, but was glad just to be “off the hook.”

As Ephesians 4:32 says, we need to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving towards others, just as God has forgiven us.

Kaitlyn Hamilton

Kaitlyn, a middle school student from Michigan, has made the most of a wild and crazy 2020 and she is already working on her third time reading through the whole Bible this year. Way to go! Thanks for sharing with us today!

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 18

Tomorrow’s reading will be John 7-8 as we continue on our journey through the Bible. Print your copy of our Bible Reading Plan and hop onboard! Kaitlyn will tell you there is something new to discover every time you read His Word!

Because I Received Mercy

Matthew 18

matthew 18 33

 

There are some things that are not optional for the followers of Jesus, and forgiveness is one of them. Jesus talked many times about forgiveness to his disciples, but he couldn’t be more clear than in Matthew 18:21-35. We not only learn that we must forgive others, but also learn that there are consequences if we refuse, and the reason why we are expected to forgive.

 

Jesus gives his disciples a parable about a guy who owed his master 10,000 talents of money. Now, one talent was equal to about 15 years worth of labor, so this guy owed his master 150,000 years worth of labor. By today’s standards, the average person makes about $50,000/year in the United States; that would be equal to $7.5 billion dollars!!

 

Needless to say, there was absolutely no way that this guy is going to pay his master back. However, he begged his master to be patient with him and give him more time. His master showed mercy on him and forgave everything!! You would think that this guy would be the most grateful man ever and forgive everyone else that he came across, right?

 

Unfortunately, after all of this, he found a slave of his who owed him money (not nearly as much as he owed his master), and refused to forgive his debt as he had been forgiven. Because of his actions, the guy’s master punished him by putting him in prison until he paid back all he owed, which would never happen…

 

This is a stern warning from Jesus for us today. Our debt for sin has been completely removed from us because of Jesus’ sacrifice! Because of that fact, we should be the most forgiving people on earth! Whatever someone has done to you cannot compare with the debt that has been paid for us; we need to forgive freely to all those who ask for it. We cannot bear grudges or hatred for anybody; it is time to let it go.

 

-Talon Paul