Relating with others in accord with Jesus’ word in Matthew 18 was basic training His disciples for their future role as apostles and our role as saints. Jesus gave His disciples and us very specific instructions on how to relate in harmony.
God has made all believers kin—His children and heirs. Here, Jesus tells us how to relate as kin. He calls us to righteous interpersonal relationships. May we all know and adopt His kingdom way as we follow Jesus.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is really the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child and had him stand in front of them. “I tell you the truth,” He said to them, “if you don’t change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. If you become humble like this little child, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And if you welcome a child like this in My name, you welcome Me.”
If anyone leads into sin one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to have a big millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the lake where it’s deep. Woe to the world because it tempts people to sin! Temptations to sin must come, but woe to that man who tempts others to sin!
If your hand or your foot makes you sin, cut if off and throw it away. It is better for you to go into life without one hand or one foot than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the everlasting fire. If your eye makes you sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to go into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.
“Be careful not to despise one of these little ones. I tell you their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven.”
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go and look for the sheep that’s wandering away? And if he finds it, I tell you he’s certainly more delighted with it than with the ninety-nine that didn’t get lost. So you Father in heaven doesn’t want one of these little ones to be lost!” Matthew 18:1-14
“Temptations to sin must come, but woe to that man who tempts others to sin!”
That flies in the face of political correctness.
In our American culture, political correctness demands tolerance and inclusiveness except for Christians. The politically correct in their tolerance overlook evil, sinful, hurtful behavior. Plus, they are so inclusive, they are big enough to accommodate any persuasion except Christianity. The world wants us to socially accept those who practice the works of the flesh. That is not how Jesus leads us to relate.
Paul warned us. “Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:19-21
Jesus does not advocate tolerance. Rather, He says, “If your brother sins against you, go, and when you’re alone with him, show him how he is wrong.” A brother is a fellow believer. We take being hurt by pagans in stride. But when a believer sins against us it hurts. Jesus doesn’t say to ignore the hurt. Rather, we are to show the wrong and be willing to involve more people if necessary. Forgiveness is not optional.
If your brother sins against you, go, and when you’re alone with him, show him how he is wrong. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two with you so that you have two or three witnesses for everything. If he won’t listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he won’t even listen to the church, treat him like a pagan and a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you don’t forgive on earth will not be forgiven in heaven, and whatever you forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven.
Again I tell you, if two of you here on earth agree to ask for anything, My Father in heaven will certainly do it for you. Where two or three have come together to be with Me, there I am among them.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Seven times?”
“I tell you,” Jesus answered him, “not seven times but seventy times seven times.” Matthew 18:15-22
Because we sin, forgiveness is essential for harmonious relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This should not be taken lightly for there are both temporal and eternal consequences to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is a basic sin. It along with other sins can be the cause of sickness. Basic gospel of the kingdom is God forgives and restores the repentant.
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the Church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. James 5:14-15
Forgiveness is a big issue. There are a number of things we should consider about it. First of all, God does not tell us to keep going back for more hurt. I have found it best to avoid brothers or sisters in the Lord as well as pagans that have a knack for saying or doing things that hurt.
Next, the sage advice, “forgive and forget,” is not in the Bible. We are commanded to forgive, not forgive and forget. God forgets our sins because of the blood of Jesus. But we are not God. Our brain is wired to recall sins against us. We can’t forget them. But, when they come up we can stay in forgiveness, without any bondage to the need for revenge or retaliation. Unforgiveness only causes bitterness which festers in our soul and body. A special instruction from God’s Word helps me forgive.
Don’t pay back evil for evil. Be concerned with things that everybody considers noble. As much as you can, live in peace with everybody. Don’t take revenge, dear friend, but let God punish, because the Bible says: I alone have the right to avenge. I will pay back, says the Lord. No, If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you’ll heap burning coals on his head. Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:17-21
We can forgive and still receive justice through our local secular government. Call the police if the hurt someone has or is causing you is illegal.
If you do right, you don’t have to be afraid of those who rule, but only if you do wrong. Would you like to live without being afraid of you government? Do what is right, and it will praise you. It is god’s servant to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid, because the government doesn’t carry a sword without a purpose. It is God’s servant, and avenger, who must punish anyone doing wrong. You must obey, then, not only because God punishes wrong but also because your conscience tells you to obey. Romans 13:3-5
Concluding His parable, Jesus shows the king is willing to forgive. God is gracious. We also see that the king will not forgive the unforgiving. God is just. Jesus also illustrates repentance in this parable.
That is why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to do so, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But he couldn’t pay it, and so the master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all he had to be sold to pay the debt. Then the slave got down on his knees and bowing low before him, begged: “Be patient with me and I’ll pay you everything.”
The master felt sorry for his slave, freed him, and canceled his debt. But when that slave went away, he found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denari. He grabbed him and started to choke him. “Pay what you owe,” he said.
Then his fellow slave got down on his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you.” But he refused and went and put him in prison till he would pay what he owed.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they felt very sad and went and told their master the whole story.
Then his master sent for him. “You wicked slave!” he said to him. “I canceled all you owed me, because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have treated your fellow slave as mercifully as I treated you?” His master was so angry he handed him over to the torturers till he would pay all he owed him.
“That is what My Father in heaven will do to you if each of you will not heartily forgive his brother.” Matthew 18:23-35
Repentance “is not merely a recovery which stands in retrospective relation with a sinful condition in the past, but also—it is a moral renewal in the prospect of the accomplishment of universal perfection in the future.” Albert Schweitzer – 1914
May we hear and do what Jesus says. “Anyone who hears and does what I say is like a man who had the sense to build his house on a rock.” Matthew 7:24. Jesus is the Rock of our salvation.
Let us tell the truth with love and in every way grow up into Him who is the Head—Christ. He makes the whole body fit together, unites it by every contact with its support, and to the extent that each part is working He makes the body grow and builds it up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16