Field Stone Cottage Blog

Monday, March 3, 2008

Lessons Learned....Again

Last week's study was on Matthew 18 and, again, humility was the jumping off point for me. But it didn't end there! In fact, I am still processing all that I did learn. Let me correct learning. In Matthew 18, Jesus turns His focus to the church and the relationships we have with other believers in that context. I wanted to narrow my focus down to just a few verses in which to explain my thoughts but in truth, the whole chapter is so interrelated. The chapter opens with the disciples wondering about who among them is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Now don't they sound like a bunch of little kids trying to curry favor with an exasperated parent? And sure enough, Jesus responds to this group of grown men in verses 3 and 4, "I tell you the truth, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." And there it is. That "h" word again.

In the next five verses, Jesus proceeds to warn the disciples (and us) of the consequences of causing one of these children to stumble. Aha! Each one of these children is of the utmost importance to our Lord. And this conclusion is reinforced by the parable of the lost sheep, told in verses 10 to 14. What a contrast! We are to humble ourselves but remember the importance of each individual to God.

Now, I ask myself with tongue in cheek, could it be any coincidence that Jesus changes the subject to reconciliation with a brother (or sister) who has offended you? He does it right after humbling my heart and causing me to see the value of each individual in the body. Did you notice the change in subject from "you" to "me?" This is beginning to become very personal. And next come verses 19 and 20. "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 I am with them." That sounds a lot like unity to me. The unity of believers in the church through Christ. And how can there be unity within the body if two people are at odds with each other?

At this point, Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive his brother who sins against him throwing out the number seven as a generous one since the Jews at that time were to forgive another three times.

From here, we move on to the parable of the unmerciful servant. I am going to let you read the text for yourselves but for me, the subject is again humility. How can a true servant of God recognize his own debt to our Lord and the overwhelming forgiveness received and turn around and refuse to forgive someone else? If my humility, my recognition of my need of forgiveness is genuine in the face of that debt, how dare I refuse to forgive a brother or sister for some perceived affront or shortcoming? But the forgiven servant in the parable does just that. He refuses to forgive his fellow servant a much smaller debt. Here I really must quote verses 34 and 35. "In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

My summation of what I am learning from this chapter follows, and I must tell you that I had reason to implement these lessons this week. God is teaching me to humble myself in the face of my neediness and what has been done for me by my Saviour, to forgive my brother or sister from my heart not only because of the value with which God views each one of them but also because of the value he places on the unity of the body of Christ. He is teaching me that failing to reconcile with a brother or sister, asking for that individual's forgiveness as well, can cause a stumbling block for either one of us. And it dishonors Christ by causing a disruption of the unity within the body. It hurts the whole body. For myself, I experienced just a bit of that "torture" mentioned in verse 34 until I began to recognize my own need of forgiveness, both from God and my brother, and pass on at least a fragment of the forgiveness that I owe to Him. Now, God please help me to remember these lessons a little longer than the last time I learned them.

1 comment:

Kim from Hiraeth said...

Yep. Those are the lessons we need to learn over and over and over.

How patient God is with us!