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How Can We Possibly Forgive Everything People Do to Us?
"Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times." - Matthew 18:21-22, ESV
If you've lived any time at all in this world, someone has hurt you deeply and badly. Maybe you feel like lots of people have hurt you deeply and badly. Maybe a parent or another trusted adult abused you as a child. Maybe someone you trusted with a deep, dark secret told your secret to others, exposing you to humiliating shame. Maybe a spouse betrayed you and broke his or her marriage vows. Maybe a child has rebelled in a profound and painful way.
The pain we can inflict on one another is nothing small or light or trivial. In the parable Jesus tells in today's passage, the unforgiving servant is owed a substantial amount of money. His fellow servant owes him 100 denarii. A single denarius was a daily wage for a common laborer. So, this is about 20 weeks' worth of pay, So, this is about $10,000 or so. If someone owed me $10,000, I don't think I'd be able to just forgive it. Could you?
Except for one small fact: In the story, the servant who was owed 100 denarii had just been forgiven 10,000 talents. Now, how much is 10,000 talents? Well, if a single denarius is a single day's wages, then a talent is 20 years' wages. That's right, just one talent is 20 years' worth of pay, so this servant had been forgiven 200,000 years' wages. Earning $25,000 per year, this is $5 billion.
How could the servant possibly forgive a debt of $10,000? ONLY if he had just been forgiven a debt of $5 billion. The forgiveness of the much larger sum puts the substantial debt he is owed into perspective.
And this is the only way we can forgive anyone: If we know how much God has forgiven us. You see, we are the servant who has been forgiven a debt of 200,000 years' wages. The wages of sin is death, and the death we've earned by our sin is a debt of eternal death. All of our sins are sins against God. Jesus paid the full debt of our sin, settled our account and cried out "It is finished!" on the cross. In other words, Paid in full!
If you've been hurt badly, deeply, powerfully by someone else, there're only one place where you'll find the power to forgive that person: At the foot of the cross. There, we see how much we've been forgiven and how much it has cost to purchase that forgiveness. Only there can we receive the grace and get the perspective we need to forgive even the worst anyone has done to us.
Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Based on Psalm 44:
Psalm 44 offers a challenge for praying the psalms, because the claim is made of covenant faithfulness and a complaint is made for unjust suffering. Most of us would not feel comfortable claiming to be innocent or claiming to not deserve the hardship we face as "undeserved." But this is a reminder that Christ suffered innocently at the hands of sinful men. It's also a call for us to pray for the persecuted church, who do suffer unjust persecution not based on any covenant unfaithfulness of theirs. So this psalm can be an opportunity to weep with those who weep.
Here's how we can pray this psalm for the persecuted church:
O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds You performed in their days,
in the days of old:
You with Your own hand drove back the darkness of paganism and unbelief,
but Your church and Your gospel You planted;
You overthrew false gods and brought down unjust, oppressive regimes,
but Your own people You set free by the gospel;
for not by their own power and wisdom did they win salvation,
nor did their own arm save them,
but Your right hand and Your arm,
and the light of your face,
even Your Son, Jesus,
for You delighted in Your people and were pleased to save them and us.
We, too, have received Your salvation by Your grace in the power of the gospel.
You are my King, O God;
ordain salvation for Your people in this world!
Through You we push down our foes - the world, our flesh and the devil;
through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
For not in my strength or wisdom or goodness do I trust,
nor can my spirituality or religiosity save me.
But You have saved us from our foes
and have put to open shame those who hate us.
triumphing over them in the cross.
In God alone we boast continually,
and we will give thanks to Your name forever.
But You have allowed Your people to be disgraced around the world
and have not protected them from violence and oppression.
You have made the light of the gospel in Your church turn back from the darkness of Islam in the Middle East,
and those who hate Your have gotten spoil - rape and pillage and plunder, murder and burning.
Your people have been made us like sheep for slaughter
and You have scattered us among the nations.
You have made us the taunt of ISIS and other Muslim militants and communist oppressors,
the derision and scorn of those in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea.
All day long Your people face open disgrace,
and shame has covered their face
at the sound of the taunter and reviler,
at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.
All this has come upon Your people,
and we do not understand why;
it does not seem to be because they have forgotten you,
or been false to your covenant.
We do not understand; our hearts grieve.
You told us we would face persecution in this world,
but the painful reality of it is hard to bear.
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
Awake! Deliver Your people, O Lord!
Do not leave us in affliction and oppression.
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of Your steadfast love!
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