Aloha Friday Message – September 15, 2017 – Did you repent yet?

1737AFC091517 – Did you repent yet?

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Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Today we continue with the ministry of Jesus as presented in the Gospel of Matthew. Last week we looked into the responsibility of “fraternal correction.” Jesus told the Apostles that they had the responsibility and the authority to approach their brothers and sisters – fellow Disciples considered members of the church – and help them to understand in what ways their actions had a negative impact on the community. You may recall that we touched on something the Apostle Paul said in Romans 13:10 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Fraternal correction is to be given lovingly. In today’s readings, we will examine Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness. I’m going to recommend that you consider reviewing a previous post from August 22, 2008 for more information on forgiveness (and you can use the Reader View for that one, too). There are some excerpts from that post in this one. Let’s look at our key verse for today:

Psalm 103:11-12 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.

We often recall that God has created us in his image, and that we are to be like him as much as possible. We are called to be holy – that is, wholly whole, complete, and prepared for every good work – as God is Holy. He forgives our sins. He removes them so far from us that we cannot grasp how far; he not only forgives, but he also forgets. (See Isaiah 43:25) Can you forget your sins? I cannot forget mine, and often that’s because I have forgotten they are forgiven by God. Perhaps, though, they have not been forgiven by me or by those against whom I have sinned. That’s not what God intends, and Jesus very carefully explains it to the Apostles.

Immediately following the passage in Matthew on fraternal correction we read in Matthew 18:21-22 21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. There is a similar admonition in Luke 17:3-4 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” Please note what is being said here; to whom does this command apply? We see in Matthew “ another member of the church,” and in Luke “another disciple .” These passages are continuations of Jesus’ teachings about the formation of the church the community of believers. Are you not a believer or know someone who isn’t? Jesus’ instructions to you are found in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (See also Acts 2:38)

In the Gospel of Luke, the two verses immediately preceding these (Luke 17:1-2) say 1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. We are held responsible for the ways we may mislead others. If what we show them in our lives leads them to sin, that is charged to us. How can this be? We have enough trouble managing our own holiness and our own sinfulness. How is it we can be held accountable for something someone else does? The “why” of it is simple: That is God’s plan. It is the law of love. If we know love we know God and if we love God we must love one another. If we love one another we must not sin against them – that is also a sin against God – but if they sin against us we must forgive them. That is, as God forgives us, we forgive others. What is the requisite step to forgiveness from God? It is repentance, and repentance includes the intention of reforming one’s life so as to avoid sin and the desire to be tempted. What did Jesus say about forgiving others? He said, “And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.

“But s/he made me so angry! I just want to make them suffer for what they did to me! I cannot and will not forgive them, ever!” That is God’s option; it is not our option. In the Old Testament reading this Sunday we hear Sirach 27:30 – 28:1 30 Anger and wrath, these also are abominations, yet a sinner holds on to them. 28 1The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance, for he keeps a strict account of their sins. We all know about that Bible verse that says “Vengeance is mine.” (See Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19). God’s vengeance comes only after whopping-long periods of Grace and divine correction. Being forgiven, therefore, is something that we desperately need and hope for; it also causes us to rejoice when it happens: Psalm 32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. That joy comes to us not only when we are forgiven, but also when we forgive generously (as does God) and not begrudgingly.

Leviticus 19:18 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. So why do we keep grudges? Is that not what God abhors? We cling to our anger and nurture it. (←Here’s where you want to look at the post from 2008.) Do you really need to carry that burden? How is that grudge helping you? Grudges are heavy, difficult to carry because they have no handles, and dangerous because they can suddenly grow teeth and claws and tear us to shreds. They are the most fearsome and deadly form of self-awareness and the cause of much suffering. Forgiveness is the anti-grudge, the “grudge-icide” if you will, and it is something that all of us have within us because all of us need it. It is part of the Image of God which resides in our souls. When we remember to live as that image, we realize we are not here in the World for our own gratification (which is a surprise to many these days); no, indeed we are here for the sake of others. It’s not so much what we are to receive as we live on, but rather what we are to give.

As the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 14:7-8 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. And if we are the Lord’s, then we forgive, and forgive again, and again, and again. In Jesus’ response to Peter, the quote above says “seventy-seven times.” Other sources translate that as “seventy times seven.” Whether it’s 77 times or 490 times, the point is that if you’re “keeping score” and counting up the times you’ve claimed to give forgiveness, you’re missing the point: Colossians 3:12-15  12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

The point most often missed is this: Be forgiving and become forgiven. Ask and offer. Always seek, and expect to receive, the greater gift: The gift of giving. Peace and Joy are the result: John 16:24 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. In other words, “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In fraternal correction we love our fellow Disciples enough to help them meld with the community. In the Love of Christ, we forgive one another as he forgives us – as meaning “in the same way as” not “while.”

This is what Jesus taught to the Apostles on that day in his journey to Jerusalem (and of course to us as well). We know that they learned that lesson because of what the Apostle Peter later wrote in 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. The hardships of forgiveness are minor compared to the blessings we have in Christ Jesus. There is such great happiness in those blessings that we can understand what is meant when we read 2 Corinthians 12:10 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. For the sake of Christ, (↔ Music Link) we can bear all things in Love, for indeed, his Grace is enough for us to be forgiving and forgiven. Let’s help one another repent? We should all read and remember the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. (Please use this link. Thank you.)

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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