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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Matthew 18: Forgiven!

Hello, dear sisters-in-Christ! I suppose you wondered what had happened to me over the past few days or maybe you didn't even notice!! Either way, I am just getting over my second bout of illness in a month. I haven't had the energy or strength to sit at the computer, let alone type my blog. March hasn't been pleasant, health-wise, but I have certainly learned some important lessons. Your health is definitely your wealth, for one. And I also learned not to take good health for granted. Being ill twice in one month has helped me to appreciate how difficult it must be for some of you who I know suffer constantly with chronic or terminal illness and often see no end to it all. For you especially, I am praying. You are an inspiration to me, with the way you bear your illness so well, not looking for sympathy but accepting that this is a part of your life and God's will for you at this time. That, in itself, is a testimony to His grace and we here on this blog will pray that He will continue to give you the strength to bear it.

So, onto our chapter for today. Christ is once again teaching many lessons to His disciples and those who were following Him.
Look at verses 15-17. Notice the words "thy brother". This means that these words are specifically directed at Christians and our relationship with other believers in Christ. We learn here what a Christian should do if another Christian sins against them. Take note that it is if they 'commit an actual sin' against you, not just do something that you don't like. Be clear on that first and foremost. The number of Christians (women especially, I'm sure you'll agree) who have a grievance against another Christian because they said or did something that they weren't happy about is not what is being discussed here. The Lord Jesus is talking about actual sin. Remember, the Pharisees were always taking up issue with the Saviour about this, that and the other thing, because they were offended about something He said or did. It was NEVER something sinful, because Christ is sinless and cannot sin. They just didn't agree with Him. So, what should happen when one Christian SINS against another Christian is:

  1. the Christian who has been sinned against should go to the one who has sinned and let them know what they have done. This is firstly to be done PRIVATELY, not in front of other people and most certainly NOT on Facebook. If the person who did the wrong accepts their wrongdoing and apologizes, then the two people can be reunited as friends and brothers/sisters in Christ. 
  2. if the one who has done the wrong refuses to accept that he/she has done anything wrong, then the Christian who has been sinned against can take one or two witnesses to that person and try again.
  3. if the sinning Christian again refuses to listen or accept this, then the Christian who has been sinned against can take the matter to their church session.
  4. sadly, the Christian who has sinned may dig their heels in and refuse to acknowledge any sin; if this is the case, the wronged Christian is no longer expected to identify the other person as a Christian, until they change their ways.
Verses 21-35. Again, these verses refer to our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ:
  • The Lord Jesus says we need to give perfect and unlimited forgiveness to those who sin against us
  • He reminds us that we expect God the Father to forgive us for all of our sin, filthy, dark and wicked sin; and yet we find it so difficult to forgive other Christians minor misdemeanours against us. We should not be hypocritical.
To me, the key words about forgiveness are in verse 35 - "from your hearts". It's very easy to say to someone that we forgive what they have done, but if we keep reminding them of it (and indeed, keep reminding ourselves of it) and keep trying to make them pay for it, then that is not true forgiveness. We must mean it from the heart, forget about it, move on and keep loving that brother/sister in Christ. I know, easier said than done for some of us, but isn't it great that we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us!

Prayer matters:
  • Ask the Lord to help you do things the Scriptural way, privately, decently; not the way of the world
  • Ask the Lord to help you to have a forgiving heart, no matter how many times another Christian asks for forgiveness and then goes and sins against you again
  • Ask Him to keep your heart pure, sincere and forgiving at all times, without bearing a grudge
Hugs, Karen x

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