Gospel of Matthew 18
On the same occasion the disciples came to Jesus, and asked him: “Who is really the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Jesus called a little child to him, and placed it in the middle of them, and then said: 3 “I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven at all. 4 Therefore, all who humble themselves like this child shall be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And anyone who, for the sake of my name, welcomes even one little child like this, is welcoming me.”
6 “But, if anyone who puts a snare in the way of one of these lowly ones who believe in me, it would be best for them to be sunk in the depths of the sea, with a great millstone hung round their neck. 7 Woe to the world because of such snares! There cannot but be snares; yet woe to you who is answerable for the snare! 8 If your hand or your foot is a snare to you, cut it off, and throw it away. It would be better for you to enter the life maimed or lame, than to have both hands, or both feet, and be thrown into the Aeonian fire.”
9 “If your eye is a snare to you, take it out, and throw it away. It would be better for you to enter into life with only one eye, than to have both eyes thrown into the fiery pit. 10 Beware of despising one of these lowly ones, for in heaven, I tell you, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.”
12 “What do you think? If you owned a hundred sheep, and one of them strayed, would you not leave the ninety–nine on the hills, and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 And, if you succeed in finding it, I tell you that you would rejoice more over that one sheep than over the ninety–nine which did not stray. 14 So, too, it is the will of my Father, who is in heaven, that not one of these lowly ones should be lost.”
15 “If your brother or sister does wrong, go to them and convince them of their fault when you are alone together. If you are listened to, you have won them over. 16 But, if you are not listened to, take with you one or two others, so that ‘on the evidence of two or three witnesses, every word may be put beyond dispute.’ 17 If they are refused also, speak to the church; and, if the church is refused, treat the wrong–doer as you would a Gentile or a tax–gatherer.”
18 “I tell you, all that you forbid on earth will be held in heaven to be forbidden, and all that you allow on earth will be held in heaven to be allowed. 19 Again, I tell you that, if but two of you on earth agree as to what they shall pray for, whatever it be, it will be granted them by my Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have come together in my name, I am present with them.”
To continue reading Chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew, please click on page 2 below.
As we forgive those who
trespass against us…
(Removing Our Hindrances, Part II)
Removing the hindrances that block the coming of Christ involves more than just seeking forgiveness. It means giving forgiveness, too. And that can be pretty tough sometimes. As Christians we often think that unless punishments are meted out swiftly and severely our communities will turn into modern day Sodoms & Gomorrahs.
In America this fear fuels our continuation of the death penalty, world record incarceration rates, and overflowing court dockets. There is not a lot of forgiveness going around—to put it mildly. Christians know (or should know) that these actions run contrary to the teachings of Jesus and our faith. But we justify our behavior by revisiting Old Testament laws.
An “eye for an eye” makes so much better sense, because it is like a balancing of the ledger books. And it feels a lot better, too. Because it satisfies our desire for revenge. But playing tit for tat doesn’t balance our offenses before God. The book of life is not a ledger of rights vs. wrongs; it is a story of forgiveness and hope. And unless we forgive others, the forgiveness we ask of the Father will not be given.1 For it has, in fact, never been heard.
To better explain this, let’s return to the parable of water. We already know that water follows the path of least resistance. It also has another defining characteristic: it seeks its own level. This means that when water flows into a container (be it a cup, lake, or pool) it rises to a height that is level all around. Likewise, the Holy Spirit seeks its own level within of us. And its height is largely determined by our ability to forgive others, just as God forgives us.2
When we refuse to grant forgiveness, the water of the Holy Spirit dries to dust—the same dust that Jesus writes in when the angry crowd seeks to stone the adulteress.3 The dust we shuffle through daily, when we demand that others pay for their offenses and failures to live up to our expectations.
In our anxiousness for retribution, we forget that ultimately every offender pays for the offense that matters most: trespassing against the Holy Spirit.4 And the payment levied by God is that person’s continued separation from his kingdom and a life more abundant.
We must remember that an individual’s spiritual journey is long and hard, and no journey is the same. When we lose patience and are quick to judge others, we should recall how “slow to learn”5 the apostles were. Yet slow to learn doesn’t mean can’t learn. Christ’s wisdom is a seed that grows differently in every person. Even God does not know how and when it will grow inside us.6 But grow it will if we have the faith to let the will of the Father run its course, and don’t act as hindrances in its way.
It might seem impossible to forgive someone who has wronged us “seventy times seven times”.7 Because it feels like we are letting the offender off the hook. But actually we are leaving ourselves of the hook; releasing ourselves from the anger, frustration, disappointment, and superiority that often accompany our judgments.
A few chapters ago, we mentioned that we can take…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- Whenever you stand up to pray, forgive any grievance that you have against anyone, that your Father who is in heaven also may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” – Mark 11:25–26 [↩]
- Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37 [↩]
- They said to the Master: “This woman was taken in the very act of adultery. 5 Now, the law of Moses says that we must stone her. What do you say?” 6 They asked this to tempt Jesus, so that later they may have something to accuse him with. But Jesus only stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. 7 When they continued asking, he stood up and said: “He that among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone at her.” 8 And again he stopped down and wrote on the ground. 9 And those which heard it, being stricken by their own conscience, left one by one, beginning with the eldest unto the last. John 8:4–9 [↩]
- I tell you that all will be forgiven every sin and slander; but slander against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. – Matthew 12:31 [↩]
- The disciples were utterly amazed, 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, their minds being slow to learn. – Mark 6:51-52 [↩]
- This is what the kingdom of God is like: like a farmer who has scattered seed on the ground, 27 And then sleeps by night and rises by day, while the seed is shooting up and growing, he knows not how. Mark 4:26-27 [↩]
- Peter came up, and said to Jesus: “Master, how often am I to forgive others when they wrong me? As many as seven times?” 22 But Jesus answered: “Not seven times, but ‘seventy times seven.’ – Matthew 18:21-22 [↩]