Devotions for Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35
August 22-28, 2016
Monday, August 22, 2016
“Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12a).
Carlton was the type of guy who couldn’t say the words, “sorry” or “forgive me.” We might think that this was a minor character flaw that could be easily overlooked. Carlton’s inability or unwillingness to say, “I’m sorry,” however, caused significant pain in several of his relationships. When Carlton forgot his wedding anniversary, his refusal to apologize caused his wife to feel overlooked and underappreciated. Carlton’s son lost trust in his father when Carlton missed a major dance recital and didn’t say, “Forgive me.” Carlton’s daughter was so angry with him when Carlton didn’t apologize for missing her soccer tournament that she didn’t speak to her father for several days.
It takes personal strength to admit that we have been wrong. We must confess that we are not perfect and that our imperfections hurt ourselves and others. Asking for forgiveness demonstrates to others that relationships are more important to us than our facades of perfection.
In reality, because of what Jesus accomplished in his life, death and resurrection, God has already forgiven our sins. We ask for forgiveness, though, in order to admit our wrongs, our imperfections and to remind ourselves of our dependence on God’s mercy and grace.
Loving Lord, prevent us from being so proud that we cannot admit our wrongs or so uncaring that we do not seek to restore and renew relationships. Amen.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
“As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12b).
It is so easy to hold a grudge. We really don’t have to do anything. We can ignore the relationships we had with others. We can turn away from the relationships so that we don’t see them wither and die. We don’t need to talk to the people who offend us. We don’t need to make an effort to “patch things up.” Grudges are so easy that we slip into them without thinking as we follow that path of least resistance.
As followers of Jesus, however, we do not choose the easy instead of the hard. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we are up to the task of forgiving. We realize that forgiveness is a two way street. If we want to feel the relief that washes over us when the Lord assures us of God’s love and says, “You are forgiven,” we need to share those words with others. It is a joy to see the guilt and shame slide off the backs of the people whom we forgive. It is thrilling to experience the flow of life in restored relationships. Though forgiveness is never easy, it is worth our effort.
Merciful Savior, as your forgiveness has saved us from the pain of our sin, so may our forgiveness of others save them. Amen.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
“How often should I forgive” (Matthew 18:21)?
Juanita was tired of forgiving. Maria, who Juanita thought at one time was a good friend, spread some vicious, untrue gossip about Juanita. Juanita was deeply hurt personally and her standing in the community was tarnished. Maria denied facts that proved her words to be wrong and refused to apologize for spreading the gossip. Juanita decided that she needed to get on with her life and the only way she was going to do that was to forgive Maria.
Juanita forgave Maria. She shared her action and the reason behind it to her friends. Juanita, however, discovered that forgiveness was not a one-time thing. She would forgive Maria. A few moments later Juanita would discover herself ruminating over the hurt Maria caused or conjuring up a way to get even with Maria. Catching herself Juanita would again forgive Maria. This pattern of forgiving/not forgiving went on for months. Slowly, though, the thoughts of revenge grew farther and farther apart. One day Juanita was able to replace her evil thoughts with a prayer of blessing. How often should we forgive? As often as it takes to forgive and to love.
Patient Lord, your forgiveness is endless. Grant us the ability to follow your example. Amen.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
“One who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him” (Matthew 18:24).
During the early morning a driver swerved into the lane ahead of Jocelyne cutting her off and forcing her to slam on her brakes. Jocelyne has tempted to display a mild form of road rage and flip off the offending driver. Thinking better of it, Jocelyne decided to forgive the driver of this minor offense and raised her hand and spoke a brief prayer of blessing. On the other side of town a distracted driver who was busy texting ran a red light and plowed into the Valenzuela family’s minivan. Raul Valenzuela sustained minor injuries but his wife and two children were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The texter had a few cuts and bruises. She was overwhelmed with guilt, though, over the pain and damage that she had caused. In the next days and weeks, as he hovered over the hospital beds of his family, Raul struggled with his desire for revenge and his need to forgive.
This parable contains vastly varying values: ten thousand talents and one hundred denarii. They are incomparable. Yet, in both situations forgiveness of the debt was required. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to forgive; it is our way of life. The amount that is needed to forgive doesn’t matter. What does matter is our need to forgive in order to free ourselves and others from the effects of sin.
O Lord Our God, no matter how great or how small, give us the ability to freely forgive for the benefit of both others and ourselves. Amen.
Friday, August 26, 2016
“Have patience with me and I will pay you everything” (Matthew 18:26).
Little Andrew Mellon was visiting his grandmother. His visits were infrequent enough that his grandmother had not “childproofed” her home. While running down the hallway—when he had been told to always walk in grandma’s house—Andrew tripped over his shoelace. When he fell, he accidentally pushed over a stand on which stood a vase and flowers. The vase was a family heirloom that had been passed down through six generations. The vase shattered when it hit the floor. Andrew sustained no injuries from the fall, but he knew that he had done something wrong and he cried in fear and shame.
Andrew’s grandmother rushed to the scene when she heard the crash and Andrew’s crying. Seeing her prized vase in scores of pieces on the floor, she was ready to lash out in anger at Andrew. There was nothing that Andrew could do, though, to make things right. The vase could not be repaired and anger wouldn’t help the situation. Instead Andrew’s grandmother knelt down and opened her arms to Andrew. He rush over, buried his face in her chest and sobbed, “I’m sorry grandma.” Andrew’s grandmother folded her arms around him and said, “It’s okay, Andrew. I love you so very much.”
There was no way that the servant could repay ten thousand talents to his master. The servant could only hope that the master would be merciful, and the master was. The master forgave the entire debt. We, like the servant, come before God empty-handed. We cannot make things right. We can only ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy, and that is exactly what God’s gives us.
Holy Parent, we thank you for your steadfast love, endless mercy and overwhelming grace. Amen.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
“Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me and I will pay you” (Matthew 18:29).
Andrew returned to his house from visiting his grandmother. The next day he was playing with his neighborhood friends, Tina and Christopher. In the course of their play, Christopher broke one of Andrew’s favorite toys. Andrew started to get angry at Christopher, but then Andrew remembered his grandmother and what she did when Andrew broke the vase. Holding back a few tears, Andrew picked up the pieces of the toy with Christopher. “That’s alright, Chris,” he said. “I know you didn’t break the toy on purpose. I forgive you.”
The words are the same. The unforgiving servant and said to his master, “Have patience with me.” Now a man who owed the servant money asked the same thing, “Have patience with me.” Forgiveness is not just to be received. Forgiveness is to be shared. We don’t need to remember the number or gravity of our sins. All we need to remember is God’s unconditional forgiveness of us and God’s steadfast love. Embraced in God’s love we are motivated and enabled to love and forgive, also.
Forgiving Lord, you never withhold your forgiveness from us. Move within us that we may never withhold forgiveness from others. Amen.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
“So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
Really?! Will God actually NOT forgive us and hand us over to be imprisoned and tortured like the master did to the unforgiving servant? No! There is no limit to God’s forgiveness nor is there ever a precondition for God’s forgiveness. This doesn’t mean that we have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
The lack of forgiveness creates its own prison and torture. It robs us of life as we review the wrong perpetrated against us and imagine what we would like to do to our enemy. We lose the joy of life, the depth of love and the freedom of an unshackled life. Like a festering wound the lack of forgiveness can cause sickness to spread through our entire being. There may come a time when we realize the hell that we have created for ourselves. We then release the hold we have upon the offense and forgive. When we do, God welcomes us to new life. It is a life that is filled with God’s love, forgiveness and grace.
Merciful God, open our eyes that we may see the pain that we wish for others is actually experienced by ourselves. Move us to let go and forgive so that we might live and love. Amen.