Matthew 18:15-35 Read the New Testament in a Year: Acts 25:13-27 God loves you. Love is not love if it is forced; it can only be love if there is a real choice. God gave human beings a choice and the freedom to love or not to love. So much suffering is caused by us choosing not to love God or others: ‘The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods’ (Psalm 16:4). However, Jesus expressly repudiates the automatic link between sin and suffering (John 9:1–3). He also points out that natural disasters are not necessarily a form of punishment from God (Luke 13:1–5). But some suffering is a direct result either of our own sin or the sin of others. In this passage we see three examples: Wandering away Jesus speaks about a sheep that ‘wanders away’ (Matthew 18:12). When we wander away from the protection of The Shepherd we become vulnerable. But God will never stop searching for us because he ‘is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost’ (v.14). Sin of others Jesus says, ‘If your brother or sister sins against you’ (v.15). So much suffering in the world is the result of other people’s sin – both at a global and community level, and also at an individual one. In this passage, Jesus sets out a way of reconciliation. He calls his disciples to unlimited forgiveness. Jesus says that when people sin against us we are to forgive them – not just seven times, but seventy-seven times (vv.21–22). Forgiveness is not easy. The cross reminds us how costly and painful it is. Forgiveness does not mean approving of what the other person did, nor excusing it, nor denying it, nor pretending that you are not hurt. Rather, you are aware of what the other person has done and yet you are called to forgive. In your personal relationships lay aside all malice, revenge and retribution and show mercy and grace to the person who has hurt you. Unforgiveness Sometimes forgiving can be extremely hard. As C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.’ In the final parable, we can see the destructive nature of unforgiveness. The first servant’s unwillingness to forgive a comparatively minor debt (around three-and-a-half month’s wages compared to around 160,000 years’ wages for an average person) destroys his relationship with the other servants, and leads to the second servant being cast into prison. So often unforgiveness destroys relationships between people, and results in them lashing out against those they think have sinned against them. We see the results of this in marriage breakdowns, broken relationships, or in conflicts between different communities.]]>