HOPE - “For The Hurting”
We will be centering in on Matthew 18 in a moment as we finish up our series on "Hope and the Unexpected Power of Love." So far we have considered possibilities, relationships, and kids. Today we turn to pain and hurt. We are all aware of our broken world and the universal reality that people hurt and are hurt through offenses, gossip, wayward children, abuse, etc. Hurt is not something that just comes and then quickly heals up and goes away. Hurt plants itself in us like a virus. When we are hurt we may portray ourselves like everything is alright, but it's in there and pops up like a rash. God's Word tells us God's love will come to our hurt and produce the healing we need.
1 - Comfort with Grace
Our Matthew 18 passage starts like we would expect it to. We need to be careful how we handle the passage. It is actually a passage that can bring comfort but in ways we don't expect. The context reveals that it is a story Jesus tells to counter Peter's desire to have limits set for how long he has to put up with someone who repeatedly sins against him - he wants a special despensation to be put in effect.
Matthew 18:23-25 says, “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt."
We read this and think it's harsh but it's just math and not unfair.
Matthew 18:26-27 says, “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt."
The man asked the king for patience concerning his debt and the king forgave the debt. He didn't just give him extra time by making an extension. He gave grace and we see the unexpected power of love. Let's go back to where the passage says, "a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date." He did the math on what was owed him. I talk to lot's of people and the word "fair" is a popular word in our culture. "Fair" is math. You don't want "fair." We forget how much we have borrowed from the master, so to speak. We don't want "fair." What we really want is "grace." We get used to extracting debt from others - getting our "pound of flesh." So much of life is fairness, keeping track, measuring, etc. However, we usually only keep in mind the things we are good at and we forget areas where we are debtors.
With two daughters in college, I am quite familiar with the whole process of applying to colleges and waiting to be accepted or not. There are websites now that offer a service called, "Chancing." You put in all the details and they tell you your "chances" of being accepted. Then they have the "what ifs." What if you add 100 points to your SAT score, what if you are a recruited athelete, what if you are loaded and don't need financial aide, etc. After including the "what if" it shows how much your chances increased as a result. For whatever we are good at we would think this was fair but not so much when it's the other way around.
We take this whole "merit system" thinking into our relationship with God and it creates a lot of trouble and confusion for us. We try to measure up in some way so that we are worthy to receive grace. When you do this there are two things that are going on: (1) you have over estimated yourself in regard to your spiritual SAT; and (2) you have missed the point of grace. Grace is not math. It is not about measuring up. Actually experiencing grace involves coming to that sudden realization that you don't deserve it.
2 - Gives Purpose to My Pain
Matthew 18:28A says, “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars..."
If we just stop here it seems we are on the verge of something beautiful. The man left and went. This is just how it is supposed to happen. We are picturing that he is going to tell the fellow servant who owes him money what he has just experienced in the way of grace and that he is going to pass grace on to this man.
Matthew 18:28-30 says, “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. 29“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. 30But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
The man's new status of zero debt and a clean slate give him the chance come out on the plus side by extracting what is owed to him by his fellow servant. When we read the passage and react in anger to what this man does to his fellow servant we easily miss the point of the story. It is not about the "wrong" that happened but about the "right" that should have happened. We receive grace in order to give grace.
2 Corinthians 1:4 says, "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."
This is what God's unexpected love does in our lives: it gives purpose to my pain. Grace travels through us to others. Pain has purpose - it allows us to offer grace to others.
Someone I know works at a local Dunkin Donuts and takes care of "drive in" customers. Sometimes it happens that someone will pay for the person behind and then a chain reaction happens for awhile and then someone breaks the chain. Someone who is just getting coffee would wonder what the next person is getting. They want to do the math to make sure they come out ahead or at least even. Grace is not math. We are afraid we will not even come out even. We are afraid we will run out.
Here is the beauty of grace and unconditional love: it will never be that you give more than you receive from God. It may be more than you receive from others but not from God. God's grace is not meant to be measured - it never runs out in our lives.
3 - Offers freedom from bitterness
One last thing: grace offers freedom from bitterness.
Matthew 18:31-34 says, “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
The other servants couldn't believe it and they reported him to the king. The king tells the man what we all know instinctively, that he should have given mercy after receiving mercy. We may read what the king did to his servant and think it's a bit harsh, but realize this: it's telling us that there are consequences of bitterness. When we hold on to our hurt and don't forgive, it spreads like a rash and locks us up in the prison of bitterness. This is what happens when we determine to permanently hold a person accountable for what they have done to us.
Job 18:4 says, "You may tear out your hair in anger, but will that destroy the earth? Will it make the rocks tremble?"
The Job passage is basically saying, "how's bitterness working for you?" Grace frees us from bitterness. When we don't let go of our hurt and forget about it, we become locked up in the prison of bitterness. We don't want to give grace. The reason for this is that we have no grace to give. We have forgotten it our own lives and have nothing to give.
I was recently out with my wife having dinner when my daughter texted me saying that she needed money. Now I have an app for that but had trouble with the password and ended up getting locked out. I texted my daughter and advised her to come up with a plan B. We look at some people and say we have no grace for you. I am locked out and you will need to resort to plan B. We forget the grace and unconditional love that was shown us.
Some of you who are here have experienced the unconditional love and grace of God. God is calling you this morning to give grace to someone you have been telling to use plan B.
Some of you who are here are well-respected and well-liked in your circle of life. You have not yet received God's grace. You are not sure you need it. Believe me, you owe the million dollars to the king. It stands for that which only Jesus Christ can forgive. You need to realize and accept forgiveness in Christ and enter into grace.
I invite you to embrace his offer of forgiveness and grace. You say, "I've been coming, I've been sitting, I've been wrestling with all this, and I am ready. Well, this is your opportunity to respond and embrace grace. If you are ready to accept Christ as your Savior once and for all, I want you to respond to these words (from Romans 10:9-10): the person who believes in their heart and with their mouth confesses Christ, it is made unto them salvation. You don't need fairness or measuring up. Just say, "I need grace - I trust you now - I want to live fully for you, Lord. Thanks for your unconditional love and grace. Amen."
Posted on Sun, May 3, 2015
by Alan Porter