Today is my birthday; I am now (100 – 70 x 2 + 5 – 3) years old. 🙂 And yet, with lo these many years behind me, I still need to be reminded of the importance of the basic features of a positive witness for Christ — humility, faithfulness, kindness, obedience, forgiveness. And this chapter is just the one to make it all clear.
Print Thine image, pure and holy,
On my heart, O Lord of Grace;
So that nothing, high or lowly,
Thy blest likeness can efface.
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
And the Lord of all creation,
Be my Refuge and Salvation.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Temptations to Sin
6“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.
“It is a wicked thing to sin, and it is a far greater evil to lead others into sin. But leading one of Jesus’ little ones into sin is far worse, because you then initiate someone into an instance or a pattern of sin that corrupts whatever innocence they had.”
7Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! 8“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.
We are certainly grateful that God can work ALL THINGS together for good, even our sins; the old hymn has it “Greater good because of evil, larger mercy through the Fall.” But if we cause the evil, if we cause someone else to sin by our words or example — Jesus says, This is serious. Deal with your sin ruthlessly. Don’t accommodate it in any way.
And lest we soon be blind and limbless, let us turn to Jesus to make us a new creation, with his own spirit that will lead us to walk in righteousness rather than wickedness.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
10“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
Reproving Another Who Sins
He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
from Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit,
by Paul Chilcote
God of Reconciliation,
You have called us to be ambassadors of healing and understanding in Christ. Yet it is easy for us to make ourselves feel good by pointing out failures in others. We talk about others behind their back. We are so frequently unfair. Forgive us, we pray.
Plant a spirit of reconciliation within us.
Lord, we need to help one another in our journey of faith, and all of us make many mistakes and get lost along the way. All of us need to learn gentleness, patience, and kindness from one another. Love ought to determine how we deal with our brothers and sisters in your family. Everyone needs to be understood, and often we need the counsel of others who see what we are doing better than we see for ourselves. We need to be accountable to one another because that is the only way we can continue to grow in your love. Forgive us, we pray.
Plant a spirit of reconciliation within us.
We are part of your community, the Church. Help us to be honest with one another but always to speak the truth in love. We want to be your faithful family of healing and of love. Forgive us, we pray.
Plant a spirit of reconciliation within us
Heal our broken relationships and makes us one in Christ our Lord. Amen.
18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
Is there someone, alive or dead, against whom you are holding a grudge — someone you should forgive?
Can you choose to forgive him or her from your heart, right now?
23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents (note: a huge, unpayable debt) was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.
26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii (note: one denarius was the wage for a day of labor); and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’
29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.
32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
The principle is clear. God has forgiven such a great debt, that any debt owed to us is absolutely insignificant in comparison. No one can possibly offend me to the extent that my sins have offended God. This principle must be applied in the things done to us, great and small offenses alike.
“We incur greater wrath by refusing to forgive than by all the rest of our indebtedness.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
HERE is “Forgive Me’ sung by Rebecca St. James. The video tells its own story.
Quotes on forgiveness:
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
— Mark Twain
Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.
— George MacDonald
Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.
— Lily Tomlin
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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