The reading for today is Matthew 18:21-35.
Then Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
This parable from Jesus is one that on the surface may seem somewhat dark. A slave who was not as forgiving as his master suffers at the hand of that very master. But at a deeper understanding, it is one that I find hopeful. Let me explain.
Jesus is asked how often someone should be forgiven. And he responds with not 7 times but 70 times - in other translations it is 70 times 7.
Of course, the point isn't that there is a mathematical equation by which forgiveness is rendered, but that forgiveness should be given out time and time again. Think of Jesus using "77 times" as a figure of speech. You should forgive people a lot.
But then he goes on to tell a parable. As with many of Jesus' parables, some things can be lost in translation.
Jesus starts by asking us to understand the kingdom of heaven like this. There once was a King who had a slave who owed him a lot of money: 10,000 talents to be exact. One talent was worth more than 15 years' wage. The slave owed almost 15,000 years' wages worth of money - a lot of money! And when the King demanded payment, the slave pleaded, and having mercy on him, the King forgave him his debt.
Having been given this great gift by his master, the same slave then goes and finds someone who owes him 100 denarii and demands payment. One denarii is equal to 1 days' wage. So, 100 days' worth of wages - not small but certainly not 15,000 years of wages! And instead of being generous like his master was, this slave has the other imprisoned and demands payment.
Our Lutheran theology gives us a lens to understand this story. We are sinners and there is nothing we can do to earn us a spot in heaven. Ultimately, we know that because of Christ's death on the cross, our debt is paid. We are forgiven of our sins. Sins that would ultimately condemn us. We are justified by Christ, and in that same way are to go out into the world to love others and to forgive others from the depths of our heart.
I'm reminded of the words in the Lord's prayer. Forgives us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We ask God to forgive us for our sins as we forgive the sins against us. Until we forgive others, we aren't ourselves fully freed to love as God intends us to love.
God's mercy is abundant and frees us from more than we could know.
O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you, that we delight in doing Your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Prayer Concern – Those who are in need of forgiveness, that they might turn to the Lord.