Proper 19 – Year A

Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21; (or Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103:(1-7), 18-13); Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

How often should we forgive someone who repeatedly offends us? Peter suggested to Jesus that seven times should be enough. Jesus says seventy-seven times (see Greek below). He did not mean that was the outer limit of our patience. His hyperbole means our clemency should be endless, nonstop. Forgiving is a basic requirement of all believers. This is one of the reasons Christianity is not popular. Sure, it is popular where it is culturally watered down. But such insipid religiosity will never change the world. Perhaps we would be willing to forgive our friends. However, less we misunderstand how far out Jesus wants to go, he elsewhere tells us how to treat enemies, not only friends and family. We are to not only forgive our enemies but to love them (Matthew 5:44). Love enemies? What would our foreign policy look like if we acted that way? If we loved our enemies would we ever resort to violence as a solution to our differences? Forgiveness does not mean condoning or enabling or forgetting. It does not mean we do not challenge wrongs. But it does mean having an open heart towards those who offend us (Matthew 18:35). In the Lord’s Prayer we say “Forgive us our trespasses (sins, debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We all like to be on the receiving end of forgiveness; but we are sometimes slow to pardon others. However, for Jesus the standard for our forgiveness is the way we forgive others. Our judgmental society often has an ethical custom that expresses itself in condemning those who abort, wage war, destroy the environment, or participate in same sex activity. However, the basic New Testament ethical standard is to forgive and not even judge. Certainly there is the whole paradoxical issue of how we can refrain from judging and at the same time fight for right. We are not even discussing that yet. Can we challenge wrongs and still forgive? Jesus did it all the time. What would happen if we took Christianity seriously? It probably would be even less popular, or maybe more popular. For sure it would be more authentic.

Greek

Some translations have Jesus say to forgive “seventy times seven,” instead of “seventy-seven times.” This difference is due to vagueness in the Greek. It could be read either way.

The rest of today’s Gospel speaks of the slave who was forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents. In today’s currency that would be way over $1,000,000. The fellow slave was not forgiven a mere 100 denarii. Today that would be equivalent to 100 days wages at minimum pay.

Haiku

Can I forgive you?

You broke my heart so in two.

Forgive you, heart lives.