Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity., so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:5-6
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.” And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, “Pay back what you owe.” So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.” But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?” And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart. Matthew 18:21-35
Today's thoughts from today's verses:
The setting for relationships we are looking at today is the world. “The World” sounds like an awfully big setting, doesn’t it? It would seem to encompass all the settings we have addressed this week. Perhaps in a sense it does, but the way we want to look at “the world” is more specific than that. For our purposes we are talking about the marketplace. The marketplace consists of those gathering places where the general populace shows up to engage in and benefit from sources of commerce, cultural activity, social services, education, entertainment, etc.
Most of us rub shoulders with people in the “marketplace world” every day and how we conduct ourselves in these relationships is extremely important. Today’s Scripture tells us to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders. There is a sense that everyone we relate to in the “marketplace world” is an outsider. Most likely they are outside all the other settings we have addressed this week in which relationships take place. Usually, we do not know with certainty where these people are in regard to “faith in God.” So, thinking of them as outsiders to us is appropriate, but only in a very preliminary sense.
Conducting ourselves with wisdom toward marketplace people (outsiders) is all about not relating to them and treating them as “outsiders.” How often Christians in our world today view and treat marketplace people in ways that make them feel like they are “the enemy,” “have nots,” or “a target.” This is not making the most of the opportunity. It is often what we have to say that gets us into trouble and usually we say the wrong thing because we selfishly allow ourselves to be offended by the people of the marketplace world.
Today’s Scripture says this: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt.” Often people in the marketplace world are absorbed in the culture of the world and not the culture of heaven. It is not our job to point out any of the discrepancies that we see in their lives between the two. It is our job to be a blessing to them. We must genuinely embrace them for all that they are right at that moment with genuine care and consideration.
While embracing a person of the marketplace world in such a manner often helps build a bridge from them to God, we must avoid engaging with them solely to reach them. We must simply engage another person as one real person relating to another real person. When we get this right, we will be ones who know how to “respond to each person” appropriately. When we have relationships with people of the market place world that follow the pattern outlined in today’s Scripture, they will be blessed with love, grace, and acceptance. It is this kind of conduct that helps open the doors of people’s hearts to God’s love and the provision of grace offered through Jesus Christ.
Following our pattern for this week, we want to look at the role of forgiveness in “marketplace world” relationships. Again we need to keep in mind that Jesus told the story in Matthew 18 in order to help his followers clearly understand how essential forgiveness is in all relationships. Our highlighted portion today gives us the end our story and the chilling words of Jesus that reveal his sobering conclusion.
Before we go forward with today’s considerations let’s go back to yesterday’s. From our story we saw this: So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?” We then stated that this was the most critical part of our story on forgiveness in relationships. After his master mercifully forgave his huge debt, the slave refused to extend mercy and forgiveness to his fellow slave with his relatively small debt.
Today’s highlighted portion shows us the dire consequences that the king meted out to the slave because he didn’t extend mercy and forgiveness to his fellow slave. Likewise, God has forgiven us a huge debt by bestowing redemption in Christ upon us. In the light of our redemption it is absolutely absurd for us not to freely extend mercy and forgiveness to all people. So likewise, when we fail to extend mercy and forgiveness to others, there are dire consequences that come to us from our heavenly Father.
Earlier in the week we said the following: “relationships” are more important than anything in life. Just consider for a moment what was accomplished by the provision of redemption through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God was providing the means by which we could be restored to an intimate love “relationship” with him. Without a relationship with God, life is broken and all is lost. But with a relationship with God comes the glorious adventure of knowing him and living fully for him. With our relationship with God restored and at the very center of everything, we go forward in the adventure of seeing all relationships being restored and transformed.
This helps us understand the nature of the consequences of our not extending mercy and forgiveness to others. As recipients of redemption we are called to be agents of redemption who extend relational forgiveness to others. When we do not fulfill this calling it does not result in our redemption being cancelled. It does reveal that we are out of touch with God, our relationship is blocked, we are missing out on the intimate love relationship with him that our redemption restored to us, and all our relationships with people are jeopardized. Forgiving others from the heart is a huge matter. The absence of it has dire consequences. When we don’t forgive others from the heart and mistreat them instead, the purposes of God’s redemptive love and forgiveness are severely negated.
Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:
Lord, forgive me for the wrong attitudes, behaviors, and speech I have had toward people in the market place world. Help me to deal with the discrepancies of my own life. Teach me how to relate properly to people of the marketplace world. Show me how to engage the culture in beautiful ways. Thank you for your patience and grace in my life, Lord. I am truly sorry for not freely extending mercy and forgiveness in all the relationships in my life. I see the ways my relationship with you has been blocked. Open it back up and help me go forward forgiving others from the heart. Amen!
Note: There will be Saturday Devotional this week which will wrap everything up.
Posted on Fri, March 15, 2019
by Ken Hart