Matthew 18:15-35 – Not Listening

NOT LISTENING

One fact the Bible makes abundantly clear is that we are sinners who need a savior.  Christians who have experienced the grace of God have no trouble admitting that reality.  Where situations tend to get sticky is when someone else confronts us on our sin and how it is affecting them.  We all tend to have a hard time with someone else putting their finger in our chest and calling us out.  However, it is a very loving and gracious thing to gently and Biblically help another believer see their shortcomings and how they negatively affect others in the body of Christ.  Jesus has clearly outlined the proper way for this kind of discipline to occur.  We should first privately speak to the sinning person to protect them from embarrassment.  Next, we should take a friend, or two, and confront the person a second time.  Finally, we can publicly reach out to the person and get the entire church involved in the process.  This process should be followed so we can “gain” back our brother (vs. 15).  Discipline should always be restorative and never punitive.  However, the problem in most discipline cases is that the person being admonished never wants to admit their sin.  Notice that in all three steps Jesus says, “if he listens to you, if he does not listen, and If he refuses to listen” (vs. 15, 16, 17).  The problem isn’t the process.  The problem is our unwillingness to acknowledge our sin and repent.  If a person, or a few people have a problem with us, there may or may not really be an issue.  If the entire church says there is an issue with our actions then we should definitely look much harder in the mirror.  Whether we want to admit it or not, being a member of the church is part of our sanctification.  We need each other so we can continue to grow and become more like Jesus.  The next time someone comes to you and points out some issues that perhaps will cause you pain to think about, don’t turn a blind eye.  Listen.

 

FORGIVENESS

Jesus now turns something Peter says into a teaching moment.  Peter, feeling himself most pious, suggests we should forgive others as many as seven times.  The common belief of the day is that three times was all one needed to forgive another before they had a true reason to write someone off.  Jesus of course demolishes the pretension of His ignorant disciple by saying we should forgive others as many as seventy seven times.  In other words, you are never done forgiving others.  As Christians, we have all experienced the unbelievable forgiveness that God graciously pours out on us through Jesus Christ.  Yet, if we are honest, it is incredibly hard to forgive others when they have offended or hurt us.  This parable is a painful reminder of this reality.  We all want and need forgiveness.  We also want others who sin against us to pay the price for their sin while we withhold grace from them.  The teaching of Jesus reminds us that our sin against a holy and righteous God is an enormous debt compared to the sins we commit against each other.  A single “talent” was about 20 years of wealth for the average laborer in the first century.  When an ancient Jew spoke of “ten thousand” in a monetary sense, that should be compared to us saying “billions” in today’s currency.  Our debt is incalculable.  However, the debt owed the forgiven man in the parable was only a hundred denarii.  A denarii was a days wage, so the man was owed about three to four months pay.  This is certainly a debt worth collecting, but it pales in comparison to the debt he was forgiven of.  This is the point of this parable.  When God forgives us of so much, how can we withhold forgiveness from those around us.

 

Study Questions

  1. Discuss the process that Jesus lays out to confront someone who has sinned against you.  Why is it so simple and logical?
  2. Why is it so easy to “not listen” to others?  Discuss ways we justify our behaviors in light of getting called out onto the carpet.
  3. Discuss how becoming more like Jesus means to practice forgiveness when others sin against you.
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