Romans 14:1-12 and Matthew 18: 21-35
This week our scriptures are a beautiful reminder of God’s incomprehensible love, forgiveness and grace for us. All of us.
The Psalmist reminds us: “He does not punish us as we deserve or repay us according to our sins and wrongs. As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is his love for those who honour him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us. As a father is kind to his children, so the Lord is kind to those who honour him.” Psalm 103: 10-13 (Good News Bible)
In Matthew 18:21-35 we read the very familiar parable of the unforgiving servant. It is the story of a servant who owes his master, the king, an enormous amount of money and who pleads for forgiveness and extra time to repay his debt. The king, who had all the right to sell him, his wife and his children and everything he owes to recover his debt, took pity on him. We read in verse 27 that his “heart was moved with compassion”, not only did he release him, but he also cancelled all his debt.
The servant was free to go, free to return to his wife and children and to start his life all over without the suffocating burden of his debt. Indeed, he had so much to celebrate, so much to be grateful for!
But then a completely different story unfolds before us. Instead of returning home to his family to celebrate this freedom, he seeks another servant, someone who owed him money. He demands to be paid immediately and ignored the servant’s pleas for extra time.
Surely this can’t be? Surely this is so blatantly obvious that if we were forgiven much that we should extend that same forgiveness and grace to others?
But somehow we struggle. Somehow we very conveniently forget of our own journey of grace and forgiveness with God and we almost instinctively turn to judging and criticizing each other, even our brothers and sisters.
People of faith are challenged in Romans 14 to extend this grace and gentleness to each other.
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with – even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently… Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. (The Message, Romans 14:1 and 4)
As Christians living in a world with HIV, we are constantly grappling with difficult questions about forgiveness, judgement, stigma, condoms, masturbation, power, gender roles, patriarchy and vulnerability … and though we might think we have good answers to these questions, even strong Biblical arguments… Let us remind each other about our own journeys to understanding and be encouraged to speak gently and live the same grace and unconditional love that we have received in Christ.
To think about:
Do you think this means that Christians should keep silent when they are confronted with judgmental attitudes and injustice?
How do we reconcile the principles of accepting each other and treating each other gently on the one hand with speaking the truth in love and standing up for justice on the other hand?
Written by: Aneleh Fourie Le Roux, Training Manager, CABSA.