A Brother Who Sins Against You
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
This is not about winning or being smart or sniffing out sin or keeping your brother accountable. It’s about doing spiritual work together with your brother.
"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Check it out: if you keep the work you can get done with your brother bound up with unforgiveness, then work that is spiritual that could get done is bound up. But if you care more about loosing your brother from the bonds of unforgiveness, then the two of you or three of you or however many of you there is will be able to loose on the spiritual world all kinds of crazy exploits that kick in the gates of hell and result in increasing the population of heaven.
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
And here is Jesus in the middle of a bunch of guys that can get along and pray and ask God to bless the work they are trying to get done for the Kingdom’s sake. Jesus is there. Jesus is right in the middle. This whole chapter is about guys getting along. Not pointing out offenses. It’s not even the frame work for conflict resolution. It’s the REASON for conflict resolution.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
C’mon, Jesus. When do I get to finally hold someone captive because they refuse to obey? When do I get to keep the man down that continually screws up? The guy screws me over. Why can’t I keep him bound in my grip of being right and better?
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Jesus gets it. He knows our tendency to rehearse wrongs done to us. To blow them out of proportion. To attach amendments and sequels and exaggerations of sin. Of ascribing motivations that are secret, a part of some vast conspiracy against me. I must protect my political butt and promote my own political position of power.
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
A little theology: everyone must give an account.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
But there’s good news. Confess you can’t pay. Confess that you owe. Confess that you’re the servant and He’s the Master. Your debt can be cancelled. The Master delights to cancel debt.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
Be careful. The Master delights to see debt cancelled. Being relieved of debt allows people to move into the future freely. So much to do.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
What a bully. Sometimes I push people around and act like a bully.
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Even if we can be called a bully ourselves, sometimes, it’s never pretty to watch someone else victimize the weak.
"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 turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
So this is scary. Because I read this like this guy got saved. But somehow, salvation didn’t stick. Or the sanctification process didn’t get into full swing. But now this guy is damned. Right? He’ll never be able to pay it back. The debt that was cancelled was reinstated. How seriously does the Lord take our relationships with each other? When it comes to holding people in bondage when we’ve had our own debts cancelled, well I guess takes it Jesus can’t stand that.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
From your heart. There’s the catch. When do I EVER forgive people from my heart? Not even my closest brothers do I like to get out from under my power of smugness and self-superiority. From your heart. I need a heart transplant. I need a new heart of flesh. I need my stony unforgiving heart removed and replaced.
Take it, Lord. Do Your thing. Please.