Romans 14: 1-12
Matthew 18: 21-35
Introduction. Truth and Reconciliation
After the long history of white minority government in South Africa came to an end there were still many historic things that caused anger and resentment
To try ate heal this legacy -July 1995 South Africa’s new parliament passed a law authorising the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The central purpose of the Commission was to promote re-conciliation and forgiveness among perpetrators and victims of past conflict. The TRC took the testimony of approximately 21 000 victims; 2 000 of these appeared in public hearings.
At the time Desmond Tutu wrote:
“One cannot change what has happened, but one can seek to forgive and reconcile. We are in the midst of a historic week, and regardless of how you voted, we all must now find a way to heal and move forward.
I mention this because of today’s gospel reading that is about forgiveness and the story Jesus tells in answer to a question.
“How much should I forgive my brother”.
The word brother could be about a family relation or even wider family cousin.
But in relation to the Church it has far wider implications and we come to realise that we are all as human beings children of the same Heavenly Father and in that respect thew whole world are our bothers and sisters.
The Big Debt we have
The story Jesus tells is about cancelling debts.
When we say the Lord’s prayer we ask for forgiveness of our sins or our “trespasses” our injuries done to our neighbours and failure ti serve God and them. That word translated as Sins or Trespasses could equally be translated as Debt and fits in with social situation in which Jesus taught.
The story suggests owe to God and all people our love and honour and every sin or injury is a kind of unpaid debt. Things done that are wrong or not doing the right puts us in debt to God and to them. Over a lifetime of doing wrongs or not doing the right we have huge dept to God and everyone to whom we have not given His love.
We can never make up for all of this failure and must rely on His promise that through Jesus and His death on the cross it is cancelled. It is in the light of this love and cancelation of our debts to God and whole worldwide family of brothers and sisters we should think of others offences against us and then our need to forgive because we are forgiven.
Every day we are in danger of causing hurt because of our failings. We should see each others sins against us in the same light. We may be constantly be in need of forgiveness and so we should be prepared to forgive others when they hurt us. Without forgiveness we may actually end up with even more hurting, as we have grievance about one thing it may be magnified in to all sorts of other anger and hurt against others.
“I can’t forgive him/her”
But I have heard before “I can’t forgive him/her for what happened to me and what he/she did to me , or a someone I love” We may think of sins of violence and abuse that people may find hard to forgive.
Back to DT and the TR Comm
So I come back to Demond tutu and the TR Committee
He has written elsewhere about his own experiences of domestic abuse of his father and the various serious abuses in SA in its history.
Some of the things he wrote:
When I recall my story, I realise how difficult the process of forgiving truly is. Intellectually, I know my father caused pain because he himself was in pain.
Spiritually, I know my faith tells me my father deserves to be forgiven as God forgives us all.
But it is still difficult.
The traumas we have witnessed or experienced live on in our memories. Even years later they can cause us fresh pain each time we recall them.
No one is born a liar or a rapist or a terrorist. No one is born full of hatred. No one is born full of violence. No one is born in any less glory or goodness than you or me. But on any given day, in any given situation, in any painful life experience, this glory and goodness can be forgotten, obscured or lost.
Remember that we can just as easily be the ones who have done the hurting and the breaking.
Desmond Tutu invites us to look at out own lives and how they may have been shaped by goodness of others and try to understand why others have been shaped by violence and hatred. We may recall saying “There but for the grace of God go I”. That if God’s goodness had not shaped us in whatever good that we are we may have become like the people that hurt us and that our own anger may also lead us in bad directions.
Finally we remember Christ Himself
Hateful and twisted religious and political motives led Him to corrupted and unfair trials, abuse, torture and death in the most vile and painful way.
But on the Cross He did not cry out for vengeance.
He practiced the very forgiveness He had taught.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”
It is in communion with Him with the aid of the Holy Spirit that we may find the love for others to say the same, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Dear Lord Jesus
In the trials against you, and bearing and hanging on the cross, you suffered the most terrible injustices against you and carried all the wrong doing of the world from the beginnings of humanity, the present and future still so come .
Help me to overcome the hurts and wrongs people do against me and help me too share in your words of forgiveness.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”