by Neil Bergmann
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Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ (Matthew 18:21).
Read Matthew 18:21–35
The central message of Lutheran theology is explained by St Paul in his epistles – we are justified freely by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus. The gospels echo this message. For example, John explains that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). Jesus says something similar to Martha before Lazarus is raised from the dead, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’ (John 11:25).
However, Jesus also has another message that he repeats in the gospels over and over. In John 1:15, Jesus said, ‘The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ This kingdom of God is also referred to as the kingdom of heaven, especially in Matthew’s Gospel. Whatever name is used, Jesus talks more than a hundred times about this new kingdom. It is like a sower in a field, a mustard seed, yeast, treasure in a field, a merchant looking for pearls, a net thrown to catch fish, a landowner hiring labourers, a wedding banquet, and ten virgins with lamps. It belongs to those with faith like children, those who are poor in spirit, and those who are persecuted. In Luke 9, Jesus sends out the disciples with just two instructions: ‘He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill’ (Luke 9:2).
In the Lord’s Prayer, when we ask that God’s kingdom come on earth as in heaven, we ask God to grant us the strength to proclaim his kingdom in our lives through our words and especially through our actions. Today’s reading is a kingdom parable about forgiveness. Because we have been forgiven more than we can ever repay, we proclaim the kingdom whenever we forgive others.
God of unlimited forgiveness, please grant me the courage and wisdom to rejoice in that forgiveness, let go of hurts, and forgive others. Amen.
Neil Bergmann is currently the chair of Lutheran Earth Care Australia and New Zealand. A retired computer engineer, he worships at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Rochedale, Queensland. He enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with his family.