Sermon in a nutshell: Matthew 18:15-22
We want to build a community of love. So, we have to forgive each other. You and I are not perfect. You and I are going to make mistakes. We are going to hurt each other. We need to forgive each other to make a community of love!
How many times? Seventy seven times, Jesus said. In the biblical numbering system, seven and ten mean “perfect” or “fullness.” Seven times ten equals seventy. Seventy seven means, therefore, “always,” “till the end,” and “fully.”
However, it is not wise to repeat something that is not working. If we keep forgiving and the same person keeps making harms to the community we have to change our responses each time with the hope that our response actually makes some difference. So, Jesus taught us how to deal with such person.
The first step for us is to have one-to-one direct talk with the person who sins. Many times people spread rumors and talk about the issues behind others back but do not have direct and honest talk. Everybody in the church knows the issue except for the person involved! Direct talk gives the persons an opportunity to repent or to explain the situation.
The second step for us to take is to bring one or two others along to talk to the person. Those can be witnesses but also can be mediators for reconciliation. They can provide objective opinions and wisdom. Many times, such friendly and intimate group can be the best source for renewal of relationship.
If the person does not listen to the loving advice and counsel of friends, Jesus taught us that we can talk to “church.” Church can mean pastors and church leaders. Clergy and lay leadership should meet the person and give guidelines to follow. It can be judicial if necessary.
We hope that things do not go that far. We pray that people repent their sins at least when the “church” talks to them. However, people sometimes do not listen to the church. We have heard many times those criticisms that the church is hypocritical, legalistic, narrow-minded, outdated, and too strict. Instead of repenting their sins, they attack the church and defend their positions. If that happen, Jesus said, “Treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
That does not mean that we have to cut off all our relationships with them. That does mean that we have to approach them with wisdom and compassion as we would approach the non-believers. Today we are sending off Guatemala mission team to Guatemala. When we go there, we do not talk about Jesus and the Good News first. We provide medical services and spend time with them. Today, our youth members also returned from the Sierra Nevada Project. We worked hare but we would not judge their culture or customs. We would not correct their way of life and their world view. Still we will make friends with them. That is the way how we treat them as “pagans.” For those people, we forgive seventy seven times till they finally experience the love of God in Jesus through our words and actions.
- What is the learning that you can apply to your own situation at home and in church?
- Who is the hardest person for you to forgive? Why?