When People Offend You

Tonight, we get to place the final slice of bread on our sin sandwich. God is not willing that any of His adopted children perish; So, we are to remain devoted to and care for one another unconditionally. Church discipline is meant for unity and addresses sins of division. Many people use the previous passage to dictate how to address those who sin personally against them or someone else. Jesus was not, though, teaching about personal offenses. In tonight’s passage, He does. How are we to respond to those who offend us or sin against us personally?

Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 

My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

Praxis (v. 21-22)

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Why do you think Peter asks the question he does? Directly prior to Peter’s question, Jesus taught something very specific about a particular type of sin. Jesus’s instruction did not explicitly include forgiveness because the sin was sin leading to division. Jesus instructed His disciples to correct the sin of divisiveness and to excommunicate the offender if the divisive behavior could not be corrected. Peter now asks, “But, what about forgiveness?” Jesus is talking about correction, and Peter wants to know about forgiveness. Peter asks about a different type of sin than Jesus has taught about—not particularly a sin of divisiveness that could lead believers astray but personal sin or offenses against him as a person. I think most of us have the same type of question. Someone does something that hurts us. We want to know how long to let it go on before we finally say something or no longer need to forgive the person who offends us. The text does not qualify the type of offense, here. Seven times seems like enough chances, doesn’t it? If someone gossips about me or spreads untrue rumors or tells me I have the spirit of Satan and God will never bless my ministry (yes, this is actually happening), I can forgive that person seven times and my forgiveness seems very generous. If someone abandons me or comes against me or tries to hurt me, forgiving that person seven times seems more than generous.

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Jesus answers Peter by claiming that he should forgive his brother far more than only seven times. Jesus isn’t giving an exact number but employs some apocalyptic language (seven is the number of completeness) to insist that there is no end to the forgiveness. There isn’t a limit on forgiveness. Forgiveness is completely complete in every way, infinite in its frequency. That’s a scary thought because we fear abuse, being taken advantage of, and we really like to see others get what’s coming to them. Jesus lays out the practice, but He doesn’t leave it there. He takes the time to explain why unconditional and unlimited forgiveness is the way and the consequences of failing to practice unconditional and unlimited forgiveness because of personal offenses. He does so in the form of a parable.

Doxa (v. 23-35)

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.” 

To summarize:

  • The king (God) forgave the slave’s (a person) irredeemable debt (whatever the offense).
  • That slave did not forgive his fellow slave’s debt, which was a significantly lesser amount—an amount he could pay given a little time.
  • So, the king handed that unforgiving slave over to the torturers until he could repay everything that was owed, an irredeemable debt.

In Jesus’s parable, the king unconditionally forgave the irredeemable debt by grace. Therefore, it made no sense for the forgiven slave to hold his brother’s redeemable debt against him. Our debts to God are unredeemable. We have offended God every time we have sinned against Him. If one offense against God earns a person death (cf. Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23), then how many death sentences have we received? How many life sentences must we serve in God’s prison? We can’t earn time off our sentences for good behavior; Such a notion is nonsensical. What is one hundred years off 15,000 life sentences or 20,000 walks down death row? Yet, God cancels His children’s debt without condition or limitation. I’ve received death threats. I’ve been beaten. I’ve been stolen from. I’ve been cheated on. I’ve been discriminated against. I’ve been mocked, maligned, accused, condemned, and publicly humiliated. I’ve been gossiped about, yelled at, hit, called ugly names, and stabbed in the back by people I trusted. When I think about my offense against holy God, I realize that nothing anyone has ever done to me even compares. The nails that held Jesus on the cross were made from my offenses against God. He forgave me and continues to forgive because He is unwilling to lose me. Therefore, I can unconditionally and infinitely forgive those who offend me. This teaching is difficult for people who are not really in Christ.

“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

If we do not practice unconditional and unlimited forgiveness toward our brothers, God will hold every sin against us; We will serve every life-sentence we have earned by every sin we have committed against Him. Those who do not forgive are not forgiven (cf. 6:14-15), which makes non-forgiveness the chief stumbling block and divisive sin Jesus addressed in the previous passage. Non-forgiveness stems from legalism, and can cause adopted children to stumble and once again live like strangers—as if their place in the church depended whatsoever on their performance. It does not. That’s why we exercise church discipline on people who don’t unconditionally forgive others from their hearts. Adopted children are exempt from the civil and ceremonial law. Forgiveness necessarily means not holding our brothers’ offenses against them or calling them to mind (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5). We don’t even have to bring them up as points of contention. Jesus doesn’t teach His disciples to require an apology or to only forgive if certain conditions are met. He teaches us to automatically forgive without condition or limit because He forgave us our unredeemable debt. He redeemed His adopted children instead of requiring us to redeem our debts. This sounds like what Jesus has already been teaching. The greatest among us must humble him or herself like a child (cf. v. 1-4). Do not despise one of God’s adopted children (cf. v. 10).

If we make this realization, marriages are mended, families are united, local churches are whole, joy is overwhelming, blessings increase, anxiety is defeated, enemies become friends, paranoia is abolished, cynicism is demolished, envy is castrated, and the sin disease is vaccinated. Consider Jesus’s sermon on the mount. He instructed His disciples to pray for God’s will to be done and kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Then He gave them the method by which they would see the kingdom continue to come—unconditional and unlimited forgiveness. The kingdom of heaven comes to earth through forgiveness, not fault-finding (cf. v. 6:10, 14-15).

Whether debt, malice, violence, disrespect, gossip, injustice, inequality, partiality, or something we feel should be another way, unconditional and unlimited forgiveness is the Christian way. The world seeks retribution and restitution (e.g. affirmative action, critical race theory, lawsuits, interest rates, ect…). The church seeks grace and forgiveness. The church conquers the world in Christ’s name through forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean live as unwise people (e.g. willfully under constant abuse, not seeking justice in a caring way); It does mean we love those who persecute us. As a point of clarification, Jesus’s words particularly concerned personal offenses, not crimes over which the state is given authority from God to steward justly.

Acts 1:1-11–Ken Duffy The Ninety-Five

Today, Ken exposits Acts 1:1-11–the prerequisites of local church life. douglasreformed.church
  1. Acts 1:1-11–Ken Duffy
  2. Christian Liberty VS Weak Consciences- Andrew Cannon
  3. Congregationalism in the Church
  4. Criticism Culture
  5. On Christian Arrogance- Andrew Cannon
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