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Matthew 18:15-18:35
Key Verse: 18:27

I. If your brother sins against you...

Jesus emphasized the awareness of sin in previous passage. We must not let anyone to sin because of us. But this passage talked about those who sin. What would we do if we see someone who sin against God and us?

Here Jesus instructed to help the brother by three steps; helping him personally and with a couple of people and reporting to Church. In Church community, our brother can make serious sins like breaking Ten Commandments. In case, the person must not be left to keep the same things because sin grows and gradually hardens his heart and quickly spreads to others. Imagine a leaking boat in the ocean! Church is an Ark who is built through faith in Jesus. But what if it has a hole? Water comes in. Small sin cannot be ignored. Church member must protect others from contagious sin. Reminding Corinthian church! The church was blessed in many ways as described by Paul in his letter. They received many gifts of the Spirit. They were proud of that. However, they allowed a man who committed sexual immorality. Paul insightfully said “Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast”

Church must discern and discipline bother’s sins and make godly community. In the book of Joshua when Israelites were conquering the Canaan nations, they lost a battle when a man Achan took some of the devoted things that was against God’s direction. God was angry with it. Whole Israel community were in big trouble. After his sin was dealt with, God gave them victory over battles. God’s desire is to make sacred community in his church.

Church is built by the grace of Jesus. But his grace cannot be compromised by sins. Look at verse 15. In Jesus’ instruction, firstly the matter must be resolved between the two. We should treat him respectfully and show him his fault. Factual evidences become solid ground in helping him. In first approach, if he listens, we have won him over. However, if not, revisit him with one or two others. If he refuses to listen, tell it to the church that is third step. If he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. It is spiritual time-out. At the same time, church can protect community from potential influences of his sins.

As we see, helping a sinned brother is not done quickly. Sometimes it requires labouring work. By putting every effort to help the brother, we could carry out God’s will who does not want to lose his sheep.

Verse 18, in our endeavours to help him, most important thing is to pray for him. Helping unrepentant sinner is not easy with all human effort. So we need pray for God’s help. Verse 18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” We saw same verse in Mt 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Best way of helping people is to use the key of the Kingdom of heaven. In today passage, this verse is connected to prayer. So we could understand that loosing and binding in heaven is possible through prayer.

Earth and heaven are connected in prayer. It is a wonderful promise. It’s direct call to God. There is 24-7 opening. There is no poor connection zone. There is no limit of service area. It is available at subway, basement of house and remote region. Even more, there is no service charge.

With the power of prayer, we can help people. Whatever you loose or bind on earth, it exactly works at heaven. When the church accepts him God accepts him, when she doesn’t, God doesn’t. It is power of Church. In this world, no authorization and institution can have such an impact. Even the powerful king cannot bind and loose the things in heaven. But Church community is privileged to do that. So if our brother some refuses to repent church must not accept him. But when he repents even later, she can accept him.

So we must pray for the sinner to repent before God and his church and receive his forgiveness. Church can stand firmly on the grace of Jesus and justice of God.

Again Jesus emphasizes the prayer of the church. Verse 19 “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. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Number two is minimum number constituting the Church. So, size of community is not matter. When two or three agree and ask, Jesus is there and God will answer the prayer.

II. Forgive your brother from your heart

Jesus teaches how we treat our brothers who offend us in church community wise. Peter asked to Jesus “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” This question is more personal. Probably, Peter had trouble with other fellow disciples from time to time. Peter used to say to them “It’s Ok, I forgive you!” But in some cases, it was intolerable. At that time, Rabi taught people to forgive their offenders up to three times. But Peter said “up to seven times?” He might think this could impress Jesus. Last week, there was violent riot in London. Prime Minister David Cameron called the former LA, NY police leader, William Bratton (nick name Supercop) to salvage a British police force. In his memoris, William addressed how he could tame violence effectively and reduce crime rate. “Zero tolerance” It can be effective in keeping the order of society. But imagine no tolerance between husband and wife and between Parent and children, among friends. Supercop tolerance might not work.

Comparing that, three times forgiveness shows much tolerance. Seven times shows much more. But it shows still a limit of tolerance. We know forgiveness is beautiful and moves hearts of people but actually, true forgiveness is not easy at all. To someone it takes 10 years to forgive someone one time. So to make 7 times forgiveness, he spends whole life to let go of grudges and bitterness and thoughts of revenge. True forgiveness is not easy with human effort. Jesus said “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Peter must be shocked by the number seventy-seven. Is 490 times forgiveness possible? Why was Jesus’ standard so high? Jesus helps us to understand how it is possible. Jesus gave one parable about God’s forgiveness.

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servant. A man had huge amount of debt to the King. How much? Ten thousand talents. 1 talent is 15 years wages so ten thousand talents is 150,000 years wages. So if somebody earns $ 50,000 a year, Ten thousand talents is equivalent to $7.5 billion. Obviously, it is astronomical figure. These days, one of the top issues was about the news of USA nation debt and crisis of default. But it does not affect our life directly. In this parable, Jesus states that we have huge debt to God, which needs to be paid off. What a desperate news! The master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt because he was not able to pay. God wants each person to pay off all our debts without leaving single penny.

The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me” I will pay back everything” Hearing that, the master took pity on him and CANCELED the debt and let him go. He did not reduce or give him extension. The servant might doubt what he heard. “your debt is cancelled!”

It is amazing statement. $7.5 billon was cancelled. This is the degree of God’s forgiveness out of his great mercy. The Bible describes how merciful and forgiving God is. Ahab was one of worst kings of Israel who stirred God’s people to worship pagan gods, Baal and Asherah. He was also greedy and murdered an innocent man Naboth to seize his property. God gave him a message about his punishment. When he heard the words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He humbled himself. God was pleased with him and did not send him a disaster. David was a great king after God’s heart. But he also sinned against God’s commandments and took Bathshebad, the wife of his faithful servant Uriah and had him killed. But later, he sincerely repented his terrible sins. He asked God’s mercy and received his forgiveness. Psalm 103:10-13 is about his praise. “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” Let us praise God’s amazing grace of forgiveness.

In his Master’s one sided grace, the servant was relieved. “Wow, my debt is gone” “I am free, my wife, children are free” He praised the King “Super super Thank you, I will never forget your generosity” While he was walking on the street, he met his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii that is a hundred days’ wage of common labourer, $ 2000.

When he found him, he must share the king’s grace with him. But he remembered the debt he owed. “Where is my money? my money?” He came to him and grabbed him and choked him. “Pay back what you owed me!” His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him “be patient with me, and I will pay you back” he refused and sent him to prison. What a great contrast!

The other servants saw and told their master. So the master called him in and said “You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as had on you?”

The king wanted him to do same thing to others. He got angry because the servant did not practice the mercy he received. His master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

In this story, we see that like we have debt to God, somebody also have debt to us. How should we treat our debtors? We should learn God’s mercy and practice it to our debtors. Here, the servant did not know the depth of God’s forgiveness. It was freely given but he was not deeply thankful to him.

When we receive God’s mercy it changes our inner character from selfish person to generous one. When we deeply experience God’s forgiveness, our heart and life are changed. For instance, St. Paul did not know about forgiveness. He was thoroughly trained and raised as a typical Jew and persecuted Jesus. But when he met risen Jesus, he knew he was against God. He also realized Jesus’ forgiveness and the depth of God’s love and mercy to him. The more he realized his sins, the deeper he could see the grace of God. When Colossian church had trouble, he said “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Peter also deeply experienced Jesus’ forgiveness when risen Jesus visited and served him with delicious breakfast even though he denied him. Indeed, God’s forgiveness changes people.

But when we don’t forgive others, it was like nullifying God’s forgiveness. How did the master do to the servant? 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

We must be aware of the consequences of our unforgivingness and ungratefulness. What is the conclusion of the parable? “forgive your brother from your heart” As forgiven sinner we must forgive others by remembering the grace of Jesus who forgave all our sins. It is our daily struggling. So Jesus taught in his prayer “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Unforgivingness is great sin resulting in being tortured in hell eternally. So we should ask God to cloth us with his grace of forgiveness and be able to forgive my brothers. May God help each of us to remember the depth of his mercy and forgiveness and accept our brothers from our heart.

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