There was something powerful about the lessons appointed for today from Matthew 18:21-35 falling on this Sunday the tenth anniversary of another September 11th— a clear defining moment in our civic life. Matthew’s lesson is the story of God’s forgiveness and our role in extending that forgiveness to other people not seven times as Peter asks Jesus but “seventy-seven times” as Jesus defines infinity.
OK, we get the lesson of forgiveness but forgiving the terrorists responsible for 9/11 is really asking a lot. We wanted to shout “pay what you owe” just as the first slave did in Matthew’s lesson. But God expects us to pay forward the forgiveness we received from Jesus and the words Jesus used did not leave much wiggle room to exclude even terrorists from the duty to forgive.
“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 and sister from your heart.”
As a community of faith we are trying to live right and be in relationship with God and with each other. But bad things happen and not even Jesus is suggesting that those who commit such horrible acts of terrorism will escape their accountability—but not from us. But the lesson tells us that if we harbor hatred and do not forgive the trespasses against us it consumes us and keeps us from the holy and healthy relationships with God and others.
Let it go! That is the message. Forgive as you have been forgiven and you free yourself to live in relationship with God and go about your life focused on healthy relationships and love rather than hate. Just because we forgive bad acts does not mean God is forgetting about them. The 9/11 terrorists face the torment of the wicked slave at the hands of a Lord who is our final judge.
We pray for the victims and families of 9/11 and for the loss of the lives that could have been. We believe that God’s plan for each of us calls us to relationship with Him sooner than we might want, and that by His grace we are surrounded by love that fulfills and completes us.
Gratefully, most of us do not have to confront the ‘in your face’ reality that a terrorist took the life of one we loved. As citizens, we still face the choice of letting our fear turned hatred consume our national spirit or, in our forgiveness and deeper spiritual strength focus on the joy of the many lives fulfilled that denies the terrorists their goal on earth and leaves to God the torment that is surely awaiting them.
- “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” (worryisuseless.wordpress.com)
- That’s a Law Question – Pentecost 13 (Proper 19A) Sermon (daringlutheran.net)
- True Forgiveness (jasonbee98.wordpress.com)
- Your Weekly Reflection in Prayer (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)
- Forgiveness From the Heart (gladlylistening.wordpress.com)
- Sermon – Matthew 18:21-31 (revdlesley.net)
- Finding Forgiveness Through The Magnificence of Mercy A Meditation on the Gospel for the 24th Sunday of the Year (adw.org)