Word of Reconciliation
Review (Matthew 18)
Who is the greatest?
Unless you humble yourselves and become like this little child...
Clinging to offenses entraps us.
Priorities about what is most valuable.
Living independent outside of covenant.
Seven Sevens in the Bible
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Just how many times are we supposed to initiate this process?
How much effort must I put out to stay in this covenant relationship with those around me?”
Just how valuable is the covenant to us anyway?
If we think there is a limit to how many times we need to forgive, then we are setting artificial boundaries beyond which we will refuse to go in our little imitation kingdom.
Living in this kingdom requires unlimited grace, unlimited forgiveness, unlimited love and freedom from all offenses and resistance.
Christ's followers are called to radical forgiveness, reckless forgiveness, endless forgiveness, seemingly impossible forgiveness. (Unconditional p. 35)
Offenses are the greatest threat to our very existence when it comes to living in God's presence.
To live in the kingdom requires that we be able to live in the intense presence of God's perfect, unconditional, passionate love. But with that comes the danger of allowing anything foreign to that power to remain in our hearts. Far from setting any numerical limit on forgiveness by speaking of seventy times seven, Jesus was trying to get across here that the full extent of the curse of offenses must be reversed before it can be safe for humans to live in full exposure to God's glorious presence.
We discover the outline of this curse of offenses from the earliest records of history.
So the LORD said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." (Genesis 4:15)
Then Lamech told his women (Ada and Sella), 'Listen to me my women! Remember this: I have killed a man who wounded me... a young man who whipped me. For seven times punishment is for Cain, but for Lamech seventy times seven. (Genesis 4:23-24) (2001, ABP+)
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)
At-one-ment is the same as reconciliation.
How patient do we think God should be?
How patient do we think He expect us to be before we can resort to our more familiar ways of treating people the way we want to treat them?
Our problem is not one of numbers or formulas.
Neither is our problem a legal malfunction where we are in trouble with God.
It has to do with our attitude, our spirit, our state of mind, challenging us to perceive reality so radically out of our familiar realm that we find it difficult to even consider that it might be what Jesus is challenging us to believe.
Jesus said we should pray for our sins to be forgiven proportionally to how much we forgive others.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors... For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:11-2, 14-15)
This is the very core of what it means to be a real follower of Jesus Christ. Either we must face this issue of forgiving as many times as it takes if we want to remain in the love and forgiveness of God in our own lives; or we remove our own souls from the life-giving grace of our own Savior by refusing to extend the same grace that is healing and saving our own souls to someone else. There apparently is no other option for the honest Christian.
And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." (Mark 11:22-26)
Jesus is constantly trying to get us to see is that, far from needing to know more formulas, what we really need to participate in the kingdom of heaven is a new spirit, a transformed heart, humility, a child-like openness and a willingness to release others and ourselves from the baleful effects of the many offenses that we continue to cherish.
Score-keeping or Peace-seeking?
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. (Matthew 18:23 WEB)
To illustrate; The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man, a king, who wanted to settle some words with his slaves. (2001)
Reconciliation is the core topic of this entire chapter; of the entire Bible in fact. This chapter is an intensive training on the basics of the message God has entrusted us to practice and take to the world.
We become the two or three witnesses He brings along with Him seeking reconciliation with any who will listen.
For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.... (Colossians 1:19-23)
Note the key words from these texts about reconciliation.
reconciled us to Himself through Christ
reconciling the world to Himself
reconcile all things to Himself... things on earth or things in heaven
wanted to reconcile accounts – wanted to settle some words
you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind
having made peace through the blood of His cross
not counting their trespasses against them
felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt (v. 27)
God was in Christ reconciling the world...
God...gave us the ministry of reconciliation
He has committed to us the word of reconciliation
Jesus gave us the demonstration of what reconciliation looks like
when He did not resist any of the abuse or cruelty heaped on Him
throughout all the events surrounding His crucifixion.
He knew the extreme danger of this element of resistance and showed the universe how vital it is
to always let go of it, to forgive, to live faithfully in covenant relationships
rather than to defend Himself and seek for His own interests or self-preservation.
On the other hand, Peter, one who was well known for resisting many times,
was blown away with Jesus' incredible demonstration of
love that triumphed over force and selfishness which was in stark contrast to everything that had governed his own life and that of everyone around him up to that point. He later wrote these very revealing words about his take on what took place:
This is what you were chosen to do. Christ gave you an example to follow. He suffered for you. So you should do the same as he did: Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully.
Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly. Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God's approval. His wounds have healed you. (1 Peter 2:21-24 ERV, GW, CEV)
How have His wounds healed us?
How is it that we come to live for righteousness as a result of seeing what happened to Jesus?
When we really get it, when we truly grasp what really happened at the cross,
when we begin to appreciate the kind of God who would allow people to brutalize Him
and yet not retaliate, resist or take offense no matter how cruelly we treat Him;
then we are in a position to see how trustworthy He really is;
how loving, caring, kind and safe He is because He is never going to indulge in those kinds of reactions
and it becomes much easier to respond in love to a God who never retaliates or becomes offended
than to attempt to love a God who threatens to torture us if we don't cooperate with His program.
His wounds were created by the same lies we have believed about Him
as well as the wounds we inflict on each other through multiple offenses, sins and selfishness
are healed as we become reconciled to the only one who can restore us to peace, love and trust,
both with Him and with each other.
The demonstration in Jesus' life showed what it means to value the covenant relationship more than self-preservation.
And the only way we will be able to experience that kind of disposition is to allow Him to live it out from inside our own hearts.
This is not something we can work up to or create in our own minds.
It has to be the victory that comes from experiencing this same Jesus who was thus described by Peter, living inside of us, not something we can accomplish by trying harder.
Our role is not to work hard to create this attitude in ourselves
but rather to let this mind be in us that was also in Christ Jesus....
one of these little ones
It is forgiveness alone that has the capacity to break the chains of injustice and give us the possibility of a new future – a future unchained from the past and free of bitterness.
The world of resentment and bitterness is a small, ever-shrinking world. It is a world of ever-diminishing possibilities. It is a world on a trajectory of collapse into the singularity of resentment. Unforgiveness has a devastating way of eliminating new possibilities. Everything remains chained to the past, and the suffered injustice becomes the single informing event in the life of the embittered soul. But the choice to forgive breaks the tyranny of injustice and the bitterness it seeks to create.
The world of forgiveness is the world of new and expanding possibilities. Very often people are afraid to forgive because they assume that if they forgive, injustice will triumph. Yet the counterintuitive wisdom of Christ reveals that the very opposite is true. It is forgiveness alone that has the capacity to break the chains of injustice and give us the possibility of a new future – a future unchained from the past and free of bitterness. (Unconditional p. 41)
Now to look forward to a future study and unpack some strange things Jesus said about His Father:
And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart. (Matthew 18:34-35)