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Matthew 6:12-15; 18:21-35

Today we are going to open with a time of prayer. Spend some time praying together for whatever is on your hearts, and conclude with the Lord's Prayer:

Matthew 6:9-13

Today we're going to be focusing on verse 12 of this prayer. And at the end of the prayer Jesus adds a two-sentence explanation of his words about forgiveness:

Read Matthew 6:14-15

  • Why do you think forgiveness is so important to Jesus?

  • Do you think Jesus really means we won't be forgiven if we won't forgive others? (Why/why not?) [1]

Much later in Jesus' ministry, he returned to this topic in more detail:

Read Matthew 18:21-35

  • Why do you think Peter wants to limit forgiveness to seven times?

  • What would be the world's wisdom of limiting the number of times we should forgive someone who keeps on sinning against us? [2]

Yet Jesus rejects all limits with his exaggerated response, '77 times'. He wants to teach Peter that forgiveness should be unlimited, so he tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. [3]

  • Why does the king cancel the debt?

    • How is this similar to God's forgiveness in Jesus?

  • Why doesn't the servant cancel the smaller debt?

    • How is our unforgivingness similar?

  • So then, why does Jesus refuse to put a limit on our forgiveness of others?

  • How do you think we should understand Jesus' concluding words in verse 35 (and his similar warning in Matthew 6:15)? [4]

Once we have forgiven someone 'from our hearts', the next step is to go and reconcile with them, if we can. Jesus has just taught his disciples how to do this in the preceding verses:

Read Matthew 18:15-17

  • What do you think of Jesus' step-by-step process of forgiveness and reconciliation?

  • How do these words give context to the words that follow in verses 21-35?

  • How should a forgiving person approach a confrontation like this? How different is this advice to the attitude of 'forgive and forget'?

  • Are there ever situations where it is wise to put off confrontation or go about things a different way? [5]

  • Share what you find most difficult in all of this:

    • Forgiving someone who has wronged you

    • Confronting someone who has wronged you

    • Doing confrontation with a forgiving heart

Pray for one another:

  • That God would give us a fresh revelation of his love and mercy, like a king forgiving a ten billion dollar debt.

  • That God's Spirit would enable us to forgive others

[1] Try to keep this discussion open-ended. The rest of the study will help you to explore the complexity of this, so try not to come to any conclusions just yet!

[2] Rabbis at the time recommended no more than three times, so Peter shows his growth as a disciple of Jesus that he is willing to go up to seven! But for Jesus this isn't enough.

[3] Ten thousand talents is an unimaginable sum of money. In our day, 'ten billion dollars' would give you the right idea. It's not important how a servant would get into that kind of debt. The point is that there is no possible way to pay it back. The second amount, 100 denarii, is still something like ten thousand dollars, but in light of ten billion it's pretty insignificant.

[4] Tom Wright summarises this well:

Forgiveness isn’t like a Christmas present that a kindly grandfather can go ahead and give to a sulky grandchild even if the grandchild hasn’t bought a single gift for anyone else. It isn’t like the meal that will be waiting for you back home even if you failed to buy a cheese sandwich and a cup of tea for a tramp on the street. It’s a different sort of thing altogether.

Forgiveness is more like the air in your lungs. There’s only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life they may desperately need, you won’t be able to take any more in yourself, and you will suffocate very quickly. Whatever the spiritual, moral and emotional equivalent of the lungs may be (we sometimes say ‘the heart’, but that of course is a metaphor as well), it’s either open or closed. If it’s open, able and willing to forgive others, it will also be open to receive God’s love and forgiveness. But if it’s locked up to the one, it will be locked up to the other.

N.T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone

[5] It is especially worth considering personal safety when going to confront someone who has sinned against you, especially if their sin is violent or abusive in any way. In that case, it would be wiser to bring in other people or authorities as appropriate.


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