But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. "Be patient with me, and I will pay it," he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn't wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. Matthew 18:28-30
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn't offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:40-50
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves .... Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:13-16, 24-25
The Matthew 18 passage above gives us the second part of the story of a king and his servant. The servant has been released from judgment and forgiven of his debt entirely. We have been looking closely at God's kingdom purposes for those who are beneficiaries of his grace. It is clear that God intends the beneficiaries of his grace to be agents of grace. When we read how the servant treats his fellow servant we are outraged and incredulous. Certainly this is no way for a servant to treat his fellow servant. But the whole thing becomes unfathomable to us knowing that he does this on the heals of his royal encounter with the life changing grace bestowed on him by the king
So, how does this part of the story show us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like? It was said previously that we live in a fallen world and God's kingdom is all about his intervention to undo and reverse its fallen condition. We are being shown through the actions of this servant the kind of behavior God is seeking to undo and reverse in our fallen world. Remember, Jesus told this story in response to the limitations on grace and forgiveness that Peter was hoping for in relationships. Jesus wants Peter, the other disciples, and us to see ourselves in this unforgiving and ungracious servant. Granted, his actions seem extreme and we find it hard to imagine that such behavior would be true of us, but remember it is the kind of behavior and not necessarily the degree of behavior that Jesus wants us to recognize in ourselves.
As we saw previously, the "Lord's Prayer" says, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is Heaven." But it also says, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." So, every time we extend grace to someone by forgiving them, the Kingdom of Heaven is being advanced and this prayer is being answered. We are both beneficiaries and agents of God's grace. We can extend grace to people in many ways. It may be through offering forgiveness or it may be through offering comfort as seen in the 2 Corinthian 1 passage above. The story in Luke 7 above further helps us see the connection between being a beneficiary of grace and being an agent of grace. The more we grasp the depths of love and grace God bestows on us, the more love and grace will flow from us to others. The Galatians passage above helps us see the spiritual dynamics involved in pursuing the discipline of being an agent of grace as participants in the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord, your plan for me is amazing but daunting. Guard me from trying get busy being an agent of grace. Help me to fall back into your arms of love and grace over and over again. Convince me more thoroughly than ever before that depending on you in this way is the only way for there to be love and grace available for me to share with those who so desperately need to be blessed by me in this way.
Posted on Thu, May 7, 2015
by Alan Porter