As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

The Vineyard

In at least six places the Bible calls wine a blessing from God (Numbers 18:12; Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15; Proverbs 31:6; Ecclesiastes 10:19; Zechariah 10:7) if used responsibly. A vineyard is a considerable investment of time and effort hence the tradition of a security tower to watch over the vineyard. That is some background to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33). Tenant farmers murdered two groups of the landowner’s employees and the owner’s son, presumably to claim the land as their own. This purposefully exaggerated story points out the sheer idiocy of killing not only God’s prophets but also God’s Son. What did the landowner want? He wanted to “collect his fruit” and needed faithful tenants. The vineyard is God’s kingdom (vs. 43) belonging to “a people who will produce its fruit.”

The Fruit

What does God want? We are all replacement tenants in God’s vineyard. Some former tenants killed the servants of God and His own Son. Matthew 21:43 tells of our role as the new tenants, to produce fruit. What fruit? Are we producing the fruit of the kingdom? God is not interested in counterfeit fruit, outward pretense, man-made rituals, national conceit or meticulous adherence to the letter of the law. That is the flesh. God wants spiritual fruit. We can tell a tree by its fruit. Do we produce the fruit of the kingdom of God? John the Baptist told the Pharisees to produce fruit in keeping with a change of heart, repentance (Matthew 3:8). Paul wrote to the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Stone

A cornerstone or foundation stone is the first stone laid in masonry construction. All other stones are set in reference to it. What ought to be the cornerstone of our faith? Many Christians orient themselves towards the edicts, confessions, canons, writings or videos of mere humans and follow people more than Christ. In Matthew 21:42-44 Jesus said that the stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. That cornerstone of our faith is Jesus. If we fall or stumble at Jesus in disobedience (1 Peter 2:8) we will be broken, and if he falls on us we would be crushed in that judgment day. If we ignore the person and teachings of Jesus, then we have rejected the cornerstone. Who do we allow to set the direction of our faith? Let’s allow Jesus to lead us.

The Servants

The Reign of Fear
Jesus told a parable about vineyards and tenant farmers pressing out grape juice. Historically and culturally it would have been to make wine. Pasteurization and refrigeration were not yet invented. The problem with tenants not paying their rent is not new. This is far worse than normal. These tenants beat the rent collectors and killed the owner’s son in an effort to take ownership. It is an allegory about the murder of Jewish prophets and Jesus. It is also about people seeking to preserve humanly devised controls over the Church and their persecution of messengers of the Gospel who threaten the ecclesiastical structures set up by men. When we place our traditions ahead of Jesus, are we not likewise murdering the Son in a vain effort to take ownership of the Church (Matthew 21:38)? Whose servants are we then?

The Inheritance

When God Seems
to Look Away
One of the strangest parts of Matthew 21:33-46 is that the tenants think that by killing the son, they can possibly inherit the vineyard. It sounds rather like wishful thinking, or perhaps even self-delusion. The owner is absent. He has not been seen for a long time. Maybe he will never return. Perhaps they are asking themselves what they can get away with because they are far from any immediate consequences. Is that similar to our thinking? Do we think that we can get away with something because God does not seem to immediately intervene? How many sins in the church are committed by lay and clergy alike, because we think that God is a long way off? Do we delude ourselves that God is not looking? He may not always choose to act, but God is always looking.

The Tenants

Living in the Reality
of God's Love
The evil tenants were specifically the chief priests and Pharisees (Matthew 21:45), but they are also Christians who reject God’s servants, and ultimately all of humanity which has rejected him over and over and over again. Yet, God persists sending his servants. He even sent his Son but we killed him too. Yes, we have rejected him, and our civilization rejects the love of the one who created us. Loving the unlovable is difficult and loving those who hate you is almost impossible, except with God. That’s what he does. He loves us enough to rescue us from ourselves. Our ways are self-destructive. We are incapable of managing this earthly estate upon which we are God’s tenants. He sent his messengers and humanity killed them. He sent his son and we killed him too. How great is God's love!

The Owner

Property Rights:
Eminent Domain and
Regulatory Takings
In Matthew 21:40 Jesus spoke of ownership of property. The allusion is that God is the real owner. The laws of eminent domain, sometimes called compulsory purchase or expropriation, give human governments ultimate rights over land and other property. Even land deeds give a person not ownership but tenant rights. Ultimately it is not governments which own our properties but God. We are all tenants of God’s property. Our stewardship of the earth has not always been good. However, the earth is only a temporary home. The more permanent property of the kingdom of God is also in our hands. It is not just Jews who have persecuted God’s messengers and his Son. We too are guilty of disobeying God’s commands to us. As we now become the new tenants, what will he say to us on his return?

Neither Will I Tell You

Politicians may avoid giving a straight answer to the media because they are evasive but other times reporters act like the Pharisees who repeatedly tried to trap Jesus. An example of Jesus’ masterful answers is found in Matthew 21:27. He was asked who gave him authority and his non-answer was superb. Jesus did the same thing that many brilliant politicians do. He answered a deceitful question with a skillful question, “The baptism of John, where was it from, heaven or men?” The Pharisees were stumped, because they did not want to give the obvious answer themselves. The source of Jesus’ authority was the same as John the Baptist’s, heaven. The implied reply to the Pharisees’ question was contained in Jesus’ question itself. Next time reporters criticize a politician who dodges questions, let us ask, are they evasive or wise?

By What Authority

Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ operated their ministries outside of the bounds of traditional religious authority. Jesus was accosted with the question, “By what authority are you doing these things?” (Matthew 21:23) Could we ask others the same question today? Do a degree, ordination, a large church building or fancy clothing automatically give authority from heaven? Authority to preach can be from heaven or men. Is Jesus handcuffed by denominational traditions? Does he operate also outside of traditional denominational authority structures? Jesus hates division. Jesus loves his Bride. Even though the Church sometimes sins terribly, church authority can be used for great good. How then can we discern between heavenly and human authority? Jesus’ methods were very often unorthodox, but never his teachings. Should we ask of any teaching, “Is this from heaven or of human origin?”

Who did What his Father Wanted

Church, Ecumenism
and Politics:
New Endeavors
in Ecclesiology
Is some messy church politics caused by a failure to recognize whether or not heavenly authority is given to certain human beings? Jesus was questioned about his authority. What about the authority of certain preachers or denominations? Some people claim the authority of Holy Scripture. Others claim a superior tradition, a doctrinal position, apostolic succession, better education or certain religious experiences. How do we sort through the maze of claims to find out who is right? Perhaps we don’t have to. Most churches actually agree on the essential teachings of Jesus and all churches contain doctrinal error. Is it really that important whether or not churches agree on lesser issues? Only one authority really matters, that of Jesus. Perhaps we are all in the right place if we do what the Father wants (Matthew 21:31), to repent and believe.

Who Gave You This Authority

Subtle Power
of Spiritual Abuse
After Jesus had turned over the tables of the money-changers in the temple and cursed a tree, the chief priests and elders wanted to know by what authority he did these things. The answer was a parable of two sons who had opposite answers for their father (Matthew 21:23). The “yes” son represents those pious people who, like the priests and elders, say yes to God but fail to do his will. The “no” son represents the rest of us, who though we may have initially said no to God, end up obeying him. So how does that apply to authority? Though some have once said yes to God and gained authority in the church, if they are disobedient children, their authority is null and void in heaven. This is also a Protestant argument against popes who misused their authority.

You Did Not Repent & Believe

Händel: Messiah
When Jesus spoke of the two sons, one who said yes but did not and the other who said no but changed his mind, he was speaking of the nay-saying of the religious people of this time (Matthew 21:32). Their job was to point to the Messiah, but when he came along, they refused him. Who are the religious people of our time? Is it not we Christians who are a nation of priests? Like those religious people, do we likewise doubt Jesus’ authority when we are confronted with it? Do we gladly perform religious acts, bow our heads or raise our hands, but deny the power and authority of the head of the church? Do we prefer modern religious experiences or ancient traditions, a church founder’s opinions or following our own reasoning instead of the teachings of Jesus?

Prostitutes are Ahead of You

So Great Salvation:
What It Means to
Believe in Jesus Christ
If anyone could insult a religious person effectively it would be Jesus. He insulted the very religious in his day often. Why? In Matthew 21:31 he told a group of very devout believers in God that corrupt tax collectors and whores are entering heaven before them, not “will be” but “are”. In a certain sense, heaven is now. Imagine insulting church goers like this today. Would we be hated like famous Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard who insulted the Danish National Church and Christians who followed the crowd rather than Jesus? What would Jesus say to us? Have we ignored the way of righteousness even though we have been shown it? Have we seen and yet not believed? Religion, looking after the less fortunate and keeping ourselves uncorrupted, is a good thing. But, without belief in Jesus, it is nothing.

We Don’t Know

The Politically Incorrect
Guide to American History
Imagine a politician saying, “I am not an economist and cannot give a qualified answer.” Yet, politicians have strong opinions and profess to know what they are talking about on economics. Of course, they don’t, so why do we the public go along with the delusion? Is there something about the person who dares to be politically incorrect that is refreshing? Do we disagree with their ideas but find their courage invigorating? While tact is important, so also is honesty. Is that why the priests and elders were so frustrating to Jesus? Instead of giving an honest opinion either for or against John’s ministry or him as Messiah, they looked for an answer that would be politically correct (Matthew 21:27). Is political correctness often the cowards way out? Do we love Jesus because he dared to be politically incorrect?

The Way of Righteousness

Greek East And Latin West:
The Church AD 681-1071
(The Church in History)
Jesus was challenged about his authority (Matthew 21:32). Does church authority today reside in a “magisterium” or doctrinal committee? If the counsel of other Christian churches is disregarded how can that be anything other than incomplete authority? Why do Catholic councils ignore the Eastern Orthodox Church, Baptists ignore mainstream churches and Amish ignore everyone else in doctrinal matters? A popular Protestant idea is that we can each decide our own interpretation without consultation. Some even claim that they got their weird and heretical ideas directly from the Holy Spirit. Of course people who make such claims often contradict each other and the Bible. When we seek the counsel of church history, tradition, using reasoning and experience, we find contradictions, but also remarkable unity. We all agree that the way of righteousness is through faith in the authority of Jesus.

From Heaven or from Men

Biblical Shepherding
of God's Sheep:
The Use and Abuse
of Authority
by Church Officers
The Christian Church is a mixture of the human and the divine. Those are also the main two sources of authority in the Church. Human authority is clothed with an outward show of power and often creates structures which create a yoke of bondage. Jesus had no such approach to authority and so he was asked where he got his authority (Matthew 21:25). Human authority is also swayed by what people want more than what God wants. Human authority is enslaved by human politics rather than heavenly deeds. Jesus did not speak of John the Baptist’s personal authority but the authority of his baptism. Many religious leaders in Jesus’ day had abused their fellows with burdensome human authority. Jesus’ focus was not the authority of men which creates heavy burdens, but an act of freedom with authority from heaven.

If We Say From Heaven

Divine Authority
of Scripture
Some churches claim to be the one true church. They may say that they have the right apostolic succession, mode of baptism, worship style, clothing, ordination or some other idea of mere human authority. Jesus addressed the idea of heavenly authority in Matthew 21:25. Why did he did speak of the authority involved in an act (John’s baptism), when we focus on the authority of human beings? Jesus spoke of the authority of an act that had the recognition of heaven. Why do we limit great acts to people officially recognized by human organizations? Jesus did not. He recognized an act as having the authority of heaven apart from recognized religious authority. Every church is a mixture of divine and human authority. We cooperate with human authority structures for the sake of unity, but we submit to heavenly authority.

God the Generous Employer

Ancient day laborers had no rights and little security, as uninsured workers without a safety net. Jesus tells a parable of an employer hiring workers in the morning (Matthew 20:1-16) and hiring more later in the day, paying everyone the same day's wages, a generous desire to relieve the hardship of the poor. "no one has hired us" indicates that they wanted to work. The payment was according to need and not according to what was earned or deserved with obvious application to charitable giving. We will all receive eternal life, the late-comer the same as the long-time Christian. In any church, when a relative new-comer is promoted over a long-time Christian we get jealous, when we need to learn generosity towards late-comers. "The parable is thus about the goodness... the mercy... of God... The Good (or Generous) Employer".

Ref: Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33B: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 14-28. Word Biblical Commentary (572). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Life’s Journey from First to Last

A Circle of Hope:
Jesus at Work among the
Next Generation of the Church
When young people receive blessings ahead of older people we can be covetous. It can be that a newer Christian is gifted in a ministry that is suited to changing needs. An older Christian may be more gifted in ministries that served past needs well but feel overlooked as times change. It is the job of each generation to prepare the next one to take over, not hang onto power forever. For a church to develop, new personnel must be brought along. It’s a humbling thing for us to realize that this life is not forever. How do we deal with the change in status? In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus addressed this issue by stating that the last will be first and the first will be last. Giving up status from first to last is one of life’s necessary sacrifices.

Picking Teams

First In, Last Out:
Leadership Lessons from
the New York Fire Department
Picking two teams from a lineup is very disheartening for the last ones picked. They often feel like nobody wants them or that they are simply not good enough to even be on the team. Someone with compassion hired a bunch of people for his vineyard, and when the last were hired it was late in the day. He asked why the last did not have any work. Their reply was simply that no one had hired them. Perhaps they were feeling like many long time unemployed people, that nobody wants us. Perhaps to make up for that natural feeling of despair is why the big boss paid them first (Matthew 20:1-16). Naturally, there were jealousies, but there is a reason for everything and it is not always favoritism. Some people just need a bit more encouragement than others.

Just Wages

Let Go, Let God:
Surrendering Self-Centered Delusions
in the Costly Journey of Faith
The parable in Matthew 20:1-16 is likely not about a real vineyard and therefore not an excuse for unjust or whimsical wages on earth. No vineyard owner would pay someone who worked only an hour a day’s wages. So, it is a parable, an exaggerated story to teach us about the kingdom of heaven, not things on this earth. However, it is about just wages in heaven. To God, it is irrelevant how long someone has served him. It is also unimportant what titles a person has accrued. In heaven there will be a Great Reversal, where the first will be last and the last first. So let us beware of allowing titles, position and tenure to delude us into thinking that we are better. Let us not look down on anyone. They may be our boss in heaven.

Where Latecomers are First

American Version
The kingdom of heaven is a place where latecomers are first in line (Matthew 20:1-16). Why? We need to understand the literary context of this parable. When the disciples were spiritually immature they strove openly among each other for political position and spurned widows and children who attempted to talk to Jesus. This attitude of snobbery and striving for position will not be tolerated in God’s kingdom. Those who insist that they be addressed by exaggerated and grandiose titles, or look down their noses at those they consider to be lesser beings will be surprised in the kingdom of heaven. The last will be first and the first will be last. It is important to humble ourselves and become servants of all. If we are not given recognition in this life, our self-sacrificing service gives us status in heaven.

Where Reward is Undeserved

Co-workers in
the Vineyard
The kingdom of heaven is a place where our reward is undeserved (Matthew 20:1-16). Why? We live in a world of entitlement. Wealthy and powerful people are deluded that they somehow deserve to be treated better than others. They gladly pay the poor a pittance and heap excess burdens upon them fully believing that it is their divine right. Celebrities and royals, presidents and prime ministers, CEO’s and business owners believe that they deserve more wealth and honor than anyone else. So they take it. We bring that self-centered attitude into the church. We too can think that our tenure or position makes us worthy of a greater reward. The parable of the workers in the vineyard reveals the opposite. The wages given to those who only worked an hour shows that heaven is a reward that is undeserved.

No Room for an Evil Eye

Jealousy: The Sin
No One Talks About
In The kingdom of heaven there is no room for an evil eye (Matthew 20:1-16). That’s the original wording in verse 15. The Friberg lexicon explains that an evil eye is an attitude of envy, greed or stinginess. When we want to hog the limelight or have all the best for ourselves, that is an evil eye. When we believe that others are undeserving of reward because they have not been around as long as we, that is an evil eye. Jesus revealed that in the kingdom of heaven the first will be last and the last will be first. So, we had better get ready for it. Our perceptions of what we deserve are contrary to those of heaven. Being jealous of others then will be too late. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and take the last places now.

Lasts who Already are Firsts

Whose Reality Counts?
Putting the First Last
Why did Jesus say that in the kingdom of heaven the last will be first (Matthew 20:1-16)? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that many who are last already are first. Many so-called little people are in reality big people and many big in the eyes of this world are really small in heaven’s eyes. Why is the janitor the happiest person in the building? Why is the widow the one who always has the most encouraging word? Why is the wisdom of an old man in a nursing home the greatest thing you have heard all week? Why does the poor farmer out plowing in his field sing so loudly? Why does the blue collar worker live longer and have a happier marriage than the billionaire? These are great secrets of the kingdom of heaven.

Farming the Church

A Time
to Plant
Farming is an unpredictable business. Farmers cannot put it into their calendars a month ahead of time to harvest on a Tuesday starting at six and finishing up by Thursday noon. It doesn't work that way. It all depends on when the crop is ready, the weather and machinery breakdowns. Only a farmer would understand completely why in Matthew 20:1-16 the vintner went back several times to the unemployment lines for more hired hands. His harvest was ready and perhaps bad weather was on its way. The same is true in church life. We can schedule events to some extent but flexibility must also be a part of the plan. Things just have a way of totally changing at the last minute. A wise steward of God’s business is like a wise farmer: ready, flexible and patient with change.

Entitlement versus Need

A national debate is over entitlement versus need. Are workers entitled to health care for which they have need but can't afford? Are wealthy people entitled to million dollar salaries which they the have power to ask for but perhaps not the need? This is a central part of the discussion in Matthew 20:1-16. Our society has trouble providing basic human needs to the entire population. Whether government can afford it or the wealthy ought to sacrifice to provide it are ongoing debates. Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard is known as a subversive parable. It sets up a scenario that defies normal events in order to teach a lesson. The kingdom of heaven is not based upon entitlement, but need. None of us is entitled to heaven, yet we all have need of life after death.

Envy in the Church

Envy: the
Enemy Within
"What right do they have to be leaders? They’re just new." "She can’t be in charge. She hasn’t been around long enough?" "Why did they put him in charge of things? He’s a man and we need more women in leadership." These and other petty jealousies are common to business and unfortunately also the church. Jesus discussed the idea of envy in Matthew 20:1-16 by using an example of people hired as laborers a number of times throughout a harvest day. He gave them all the same wage, no matter how long they had worked. Was it just by our standards? Of course not. That is not the point. The exaggeration is to point out that even when justified, envy is not the right reaction for those who already have the greatest blessing of all, the kingdom of heaven.

Wine Industry Parable

Wine & Spirit:
A Christian's Guide
to Enjoying Wine
In an age when refrigeration and pasteurization were unknown, grape juice was commonly preserved as wine. As we look at the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, we may miss this salient point. We too often try to be more righteous than Jesus. But, the Gospel writers did not bat an eyelid when writing of Jesus and wine. Grace is too risky for some of us. We would rather make a rule banning a God-given gift than take the risk that someone might get drunk. Not so Jesus. Despite the fact that drunkenness also existed in those days, he turned water into wine, drank with sinners and used wine as one of the elements of the Lord’s Supper. It was also natural then for him to use the grape harvest in parables as he did in Matthew 20:1-16.

The Forgiveness Limit

After we confront someone caught up in gross sin what attitude ought we to have? How often must we forgive a habitual sin? Are we to be suckers? Jesus taught about forgiveness, but how often should we let ourselves be taken advantage of and subsequently forgive those who seem to make a habit of hurting us? That is essentially Peter's question in Matthew 18:21-35. Ancient Jewish teaching may have suggested with forgiveness, 3 strikes and you're out. So, Peter's suggestion of 7 times, may have seemed generous to him. A question in response to Peter might be, how often ought we imitate God's forgiveness? If the answer is only 7 times, then we are all in trouble. Jesus' answer is 70x7, a hyperbola for countless times. True generosity in forgiveness does not keep count. Christian forgiveness is given extravagantly.

Effect of Being Forgiven

A business executive lost about 5,000 lifetimes worth of income. He was a trusted slave (Matthew 18:21-35). He was forgiven by his king. The king not only had compassion on him, but forgave an astronomical debt. The slave then confronted a fellow who owed him only the equivalent of a few month's wages by comparison. The recently forgiven slave, whose debt had been 600,000 times greater, became violent and threw his fellow slave into prison. The king was so incensed at this lack of mercy, that he jailed him and handed him over to those who would torture him. Torture was not allowed under Jewish law, but Roman prison guards were well known for it. Hell will be torture. God will not tolerate anything less than forgiveness. The effect of being forgiven ought to be forgiving others.

Must we Forgive Terrorists

Choosing Forgiveness:
Your Journey to Freedom
What debt to society does a terrorist responsible for thousands of deaths owe? Could we say that the only repayment that would satisfy us would be revenge? Matthew 18:21-35 describes a forgiven man who was unable to forgive. Who do we find it hard to forgive — terrorists? What about abusive spouses? What about gang bangers, politicians, identity thieves, greedy company executives, church conferences and fellow church members? Are there any exceptions? Some crimes are so despicable that even the thought of forgiveness can make us angry. Yet, still Jesus does not flinch. He asks us to forgive our enemies and he dares to ask us to pray for them. However, forgiveness does not mean that we allow terrorists, abusers and criminals to continue. We must also show love to all by seeking to put a stop to such wrongdoing.

Forgiveness Every Day

The Unburdened Heart:
5 Keys to Forgiveness
and Freedom
How many people do we have to forgive? Do we need to forgive the church? What about church leaders creating new Talmuds and binding heavy burdens on us like the Pharisees which Jesus criticized? We cannot say that legalism is exclusively a Jewish problem. It is a human one. Grace is risky. Legalism is the normal human way. What about politicians? They are easier to forgive. All we have to do is realize that no human is capable of solving human problems. What about the jerk on the freeway, who cuts you off and threatens your life with a deadly weapon because you dare to obey the law? Father, forgive him. He doesn’t know what he is doing. Forgiveness is needed every day and in every place. And the hardest thing of all is forgiving from the heart (Matthew 18:21-35).

Forgiveness a Rare Gift

The Gift of
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus spoke of a rare gift. It is a gift we give others and ourselves. It is the gift of forgiveness. It is hard to find this gift. Most people hold unhealthy grudges and refuse to let them go. We carefully keep resentments of hurts against all kinds of people as one would preserve a precious treasure. Yet that treasure is a stinking carcass. We not only preserve this corpse, but we bow down to caress it with our words as we remember the past. The dead carcass is our egos and hurt feelings and we refuse to let go of them. Instead of forgiving and getting over it, we imprison ourselves in bitterness and inward anger. Jesus said to forgive from the heart, because only by doing so will our hearts experience freedom and healing.

Forgiveness Despite the Pain

The Forgiveness Formula:
How to Let Go of Your Pain
and Move On with Life
Forgiveness is probably one of the hardest things in life to do, yet it is a requirement of the Christian life (Matthew 18:21-35). It is a decision, but it is not an easy one. With forgiveness comes all kinds of deep personal pain. We want justice, but when it comes to our own wrongs we want mercy. Offenses and great injustices happen inside and outside of the church. Many times forgiveness comes hard. Do we look to blame the perpetrators or ourselves for allowing it? It’s the past and we can’t go back. We do have a choice though. We can live lives of bitterness and resentment or choose forgiveness despite the pain. It’s easy to harbor a grudge for life, but the consequences are hard. It’s hard to forgive from the heart, but the consequences are renewed life.

Forgiveness makes a Church

Love One Another:
Becoming the Church
Jesus Longs For
Some people are loners because they refuse to forgive. A healthy local church is an ideal place for anyone to heal and begin to learn to love again. Notice I did not say "trust again." The Bible teaches us that it is foolish to trust any human being, even ourselves. We must learn to trust the only one who is completely trustworthy, God. What we need to learn in community life is forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus gave one of the most memorable parables regarding forgiveness. A servant who owed a sum as large as several million in today’s money would not forgive the debt of someone who owed only a few hundred. How wonderful it is when we are in a group of Christians and forgiveness is there. Human trustworthiness is an unrealistic expectation. Forgiveness makes a church.

Forgive before an Apology

Theory, Research
and Practice
Should we only forgive those who apologize? It seems that Jesus’ prayer on the cross contradicted that kind of thinking. He prayed, Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus spoke about an atmosphere in the church of forgiveness. Imagine an atmosphere where forgiveness was not so readily given out, or you sensed that every mistake was being cataloged and critiqued. Perhaps you sense that you are not forgiven for some mistake that you may even be unaware of. An atmosphere like that would be a church killer. Would we find excuses why we could not attend anymore? Forgiveness before repentance, simply because none of us really knows what we are doing, is a hallmark of a church which follows Jesus. A church with an atmosphere of forgiveness is a wonderful place to be.

Forgiving when the Line is Crossed

is a Choice
“I’ll forgive you this time but...” Fill in the blank. We each draw an imaginary line in the sand beyond which forgiveness is not available. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus challenged that kind of thinking after Peter suggested a very generous line in the sand, seven times. Perhaps he had thought if Jesus said go the extra mile that may also apply to forgiveness, twice only. But perhaps he rethought that and asked Jesus about seven times, a number we could easily keep track of. But, who could keep track of seventy seven or four hundred and ninety times? No matter the translation, it is a number that is normally not as easily tracked. If we would be so pedantic as to track the number of times we gave someone forgiveness, then perhaps we have not really forgiven at all.