Feb. 18, 2005


First Things First

Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)
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?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
-Matthew 6:14 (NRSV)

A gust of wind rocks our little car as my daughter and I stare out at the drifting snow. We're waiting for the school bus, a part of our daily routine. Today, icy silence surrounds us, our earlier argument freezing out any conversation.

The bus approaches, and my daughter leaves without a word. Returning home, I grab my Bible, intending to pray for my three children as I do every day. But angry tears interrupt my prayers for my daughter. And I find myself thinking, God won't hear me if I haven't forgiven her.

I know God loves and forgives me. Yet how many times have I taken that for granted, while stubbornly holding a grudge against another? I'm suddenly aware that I can be as ungrateful and self-centered as I think my daughter was this morning. My prayer changes direction as I ask God to help me forgive her, not just with words but with my whole heart. The tears subside, and anger gives way to forgiveness. I'm now able to ask God's blessing on her day and on mine.
Heidi VanderSlikke (Ontario, Canada)

God of forgiveness and understanding, thank you for forgiveness. Help us to forgive those who have wronged us, just as we have been forgiven by you. Amen.