SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Jesus tells his disciples to be like children. One parallel is that a child has to rely on his/her parents. Likewise, we should rely on God.
- In verses 6-9 Jesus talks about the severity of sin and causing others to stumble, saying that it's better to cut off your hands or feet than to be thrown into eternal fire. Jesus doesn't literally want people to amputate limbs, but does want them to know how destructive sin and its results are.
- Jesus gives a pattern (verses 15-17) to follow when another Christ-follower sins against you. He says to show them their fault, just between the two of you. Then, if they won’t listen, get others involved to help with the situation. If they still refuse to listen, Jesus says to treat them as a "pagan or a tax collector." This may sound like Jesus is suggesting cutting those people off, but remember Jesus spent most of his time with pagans and tax collectors. He constantly loved them. So it would seem that Jesus isn't suggesting we disown this person, but rather that we no longer assume he/she is a Christian, and try to love and lead them to faith in Jesus.
- In response to this teaching, Peter asks how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Jesus says, "seventy-seven times" (or seventy times seven). He is not being literal, but is suggesting that we forgive every time.
- Jesus illustrates why we should forgive by telling a story about a servant who was forgiven of the great debt he owed his master, but was unwilling to have the same mercy on a fellow servant. The point is that we have been forgiven much by God, and should offer that same forgiveness to anyone who sins against us.
- What Jesus teaches in this chapter about seeking reconciliation, and that we need to offer forgiveness every time because we have been forgiven, combined with what Jesus taught earlier in Matthew 5:23-24, shows that we cannot remain bitter; we must always forgive. Being unwilling to forgive leads to bitterness, which causes more pain in the person who won't forgive. It’s a cycle that only brings more sin. Followers of Jesus must be people who break this cycle by offering grace. Sometimes the pain caused by others is so great that reconciliation doesn't seem possible. But understanding God's forgiveness of us, and seeking his strength, allows us to do what seems impossible.
- Who do you need to seek reconciliation with? It may be a person you sinned against, and you need to ask for forgiveness. Or it may be a person who sinned against you, and you need to offer forgiveness. If you think you can't do it, you're right. But you and God, together, can. So spend some time meditating on God's forgiveness of your sin, and asking God to help change your heart and give you the strength to seek reconciliation. Get support and prayer from some close friends if you need to. And then go seek reconciliation.