September 15, 2002

Matthew 18:21-35

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"

Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

"The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!'

"The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

"The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."

[The Message ]


1. I'm so glad Peter got up the nerve to ask about the limits of forgiveness. I was just about to do so myself. Now I can learn from his question.

2. I'm so glad Jesus told a story. When it comes to forgiveness there is always a story involved. We have to tell what happened. The story in our life might be called "confession."

So what is your confession about a broken relationship? What is your story about the healing of that brokenness? In these stories we find clarity about sin and the mystery of mercy.

3. Having listened in with Peter's question I can now be bold enough to step forward and ask, "How many times will I be forgiven for hurting a sister or brother? Seven?"

Do you pride yourself on being a quick learner so you can live with a response of, "Just once."? Are you extremely thankful that you still have a ways to go before you bump up against the magic 490? Have you pushed it all the way past 500 to a Guinness World Record?

Can you hear weeping as I ask my question? It's time for mercy to finally be lived.

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