The Scriptorium

As You Are Forgiven

If we are compassionate, we will forgive. Matthew 18.21-35

Matthew 18: Others First (6)

Pray Psalm 51.10-13.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

Sing Psalm 51.10-13.
(St. Anne: Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
Thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.

Read Matthew 18.1-35; meditate on verses 21-35.

Prepare.
1. What are the preconditions for forgiveness?

2. How does compassion relate to forgiveness?

Meditate.
In this chapter, Jesus has been teaching His disciples – and us – to think about others, and not just themselves. We are to humble ourselves and serve others if we wish to be great in the Kingdom. We must be careful not to become a stumbling block to others, causing them to fall into sin. We must seek the lost as Jesus did, to bring them to salvation and the joy of eternal life. We must confront a brother who has sinned against us, that we might win him back to a good standing with the Lord and ourselves; and we must be diligent to “bind and loose” in line with what God has decreed in heaven. Thus, by looking out for one another, we will be able to serve one another according to the teaching of God’s Word.

In today’s lengthy passage, Jesus teaches about the importance of forgiveness. He was responding to a question from Peter, as he was puzzling over how often he needed to forgive someone. Jesus’ initial answer was, in effect, as often as he comes asking forgiveness (vv. 21, 22).

The parable of the ungrateful servant teaches us about the nature of forgiveness. The servant who owed the great debt to his master pled with him for time to pay his debt. He could not pay it when it was called for; and the likelihood of his ever being able to pay it seemed remote. In response to his falling down and seeking an extension, the master, “moved with compassion”, forgave him the debt (vv. 23-27). This is the way things work in the Kingdom of heaven (v. 23).

But the forgiven servant was not sufficiently grateful for the grace received. He went right out and demanded payment of a much smaller debt from “one of his fellow servants”, taking him by the throat, and demanding that he pay all. He had no compassion on the man, and refused even to give him an extension on his debt. Instead, he had the man imprisoned until he could pay all. Which would probably never happen, since he was in prison (vv. 28-30).

When this became known to the master, he realized that the grace he had shown his servant had not taken hold in his heart, and that he was not truly grateful for having been forgiven. Consequently, the master determined that he must be punished and pay his debt (vv. 31-34). The lesson Jesus wanted His disciples to gain was that we must forgive from the heart – sincerely, compassionately, holding nothing back or in reserve (v. 35). This is how God forgives those who seek mercy and grace from Him; it is how we must forgive one another as well.

Reflect.
1. What is forgiveness, and why must we seek it from the Lord?

2. What does forgiveness accomplish?

3. What are the conditions under which we may expect to be forgiven?

Therefore, since in no way—that is, with no satisfaction and no worthy penitence—could we pay off this debt of sin and eternal death, that eternal King came down from heaven and by remitting the human race its sins forgave all the debt of every one who believes in him.
Chromatius (fl. 400), Tractate on Matthew 59.5

Forgive my sins, Lord Jesus, and fill me with gratitude so that I…

Pray Psalm 51.1-9.
Wait in silence on the Lord to bring to mind any sins; then confess and repent, and commit your day to the Lord.

Sing Psalm 51.1-9.
Psalm 51.1-9 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)
Be gracious to me, Savior, according to Your love!
According to Your mercy, my sins, my sins remove!
O wash me, precious Savior, and cleanse me from all sin.
Look on me with Your favor, and cause my grief to end.

Against You only, Savior, have I become unclean.
Thus just the condemnation which You pronounce on me.
Lord, I was born to sinning, while You seek truth within.
To wisdom my heart winning, release me from my sin!

In Jesus’ blood and mercy, Lord, cleanse my evil heart!
Let me washed, cleansed, renewed be and pure in whole and part.
Bring joy again and gladness; look not upon my sin.
Deliver me from sadness; renew me yet again!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore