Brian’s Reflection: Sat/Sun, Sept 13/14, 2008
“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."
- The Gospel, from the community styled “Matthew” (18:32ff); reading for Proper 19, RCL, this Sunday
If Jesus weren’t telling a story/parable, could you imagine Him saying - after everything He had said about the loving character of his Heavenly Father - that He would torture people???
It’s a STORY!! Do you get it?? All of the parables of Jesus are stories. The story isn’t literal. It’s told with all the aspects that get the point across, just like all stories, like all “fairy stories”. Do you think, for one minute, that Jesus thought that his followers/listeners would infer that God would torture people??? As the young would say today, Give Me A Break!.
So, go to worship today. Listen to the story. Hear the story and Get The Point. But for Heaven’s Sake, don’t confuse the point of the story with the nature of God.
The point is clear – because Jesus knew how to tell a powerful and compelling story. The point is this: Every one of us will lead a tortured life, agonizing, if we can’t forgive those who harm us. The corrosive power of hate and of bitterness and of resentment will immediately begin to eat away at us, begin to shrivel our heart, begin to wither our humanity - and our self-respect. In a flash, we will become wizened caricatures of ourselves. And we will die, from within. We will wreak havoc among our friends, our family. We will stoke the fires of self-hate until we disintegrate into the ashes, taking down many with us.
God loves us. God works mysteriously in us. God waits until we understand that we must move from hate to forgiveness. Then God hastens the healing, and leads us to a deeper wholeness.
Not seven times. Seventy times seven ….. in other words, it’s a never-ending process.