Friday of Pentecost 16 – Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” I knew man once who was driven mad by guilt. That can still happen in some parts of the world unencumbered by reality TV and the mentality of victimhood which seems to excuse any misdeed. This man did not claim to have been abused or otherwise the victim of some injustice. He had committed insurance fraud and he knew it. This truth ate at him. Years later he started doing irrational things, mostly around money. He would see a good deal on socks at Walmart and buy whole cartful. He would concoct wild schemes to buy his neighbors’ farms and radically expand his modest operation.   Finally, his family and friends intervened, and a counsellor drew out of him a confession of his sin, now decades old. All his erratic behavior had been attempts to raise the cash to make right his theft of insurance money. The counsellor, being a Christian, realized that this was out of her league. She called his pastor. His pastor heard his confession and absolved him of his sins. And his madness cleared. He was still a little odd, but he had always been a little odd. Everyone was relieved to have his eccentricities back, to be honest. This little story of the man driven mad by guilt hinges on faith. He believed that his actions had consequences, even if he had not been caught in his fraud. He also believed that the absolution spoken by his pastor was a real thing, an action which removed his guilt. The man in this story which Jesus tells does not believe. He acknowledges his debt to be sure, but he does not believe the king when that king forgave his debt. He accosts his fellow servant, demanding money, right now. He is trying to raise funds to repay the forgiven debt. It is a little mad of him. Jesus would have you shake your head in wonder at his foolish behavior. But is not our grudge-bearing, vindictive, score-settling, moral bean-counting behavior any different today? Jesus warns us that such behavior is rooted in a disbelief in God’s grace, and that always starts with the grace He has shown to us. Take a good look at the sins of another person today and remember that Jesus has died for that sin and that person just as surely as he died for you and your sins. Treat that other person today in the light of that reality.

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