This is sermon two in this series. The audio is here:
Summer of Forgiveness: As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us – Seventh Sunday After Pentecost – July 8, 2019 – Matthew 18:23-35
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
One of the strangest things about the Christian faith has to be the ways in which it commands things that most of the world regards as mere feelings. For example, in our United Methodist wedding liturgy, nowhere does the couple say “I do” (present tense). Instead, they say “I will” (future tense). The question is not “Do you love him/her on your wedding day?” It is “Will you love him/her down the road when you have both changed and some of the gloss has worn off the marriage, or at least, some patina has developed.
Jesus loves this. He loves to command us to do things that we believe we only have to do when we feel like it. Love God. Love me. Love one another. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies.
Jesus has this way about him where he is able to command us to separate how we feel from what we do, as we have a tendency to keep feeling and doing a bit too close together sometimes. Forgiveness is no different. Forgiveness has little to do with our feelings or even our judgements; whether we feel like forgiving someone or whether we feel like they deserve our pardon.
Rooting forgiveness in our feelings and our judgements can pretty easily keep it hidden away forever, so in today’s text, Jesus removes forgiveness from our feelings and judgements and roots it in something deeper and eternal: the depth of the forgiveness of us by God.