We will be switching gears faster as Easter approaches. It is fitting though to look at how Jesus taught that workers should be treated if we truly treated them according to God’ love. We will be following the theme of servant, all with an eye toward Jesus as Suffering Servant. In the context of dealing with sin in the church, or next passage Matthew 18:10-34, points to another illustration based on being a Servant.
Read Matthew 18:10-34
First, the love of God is pictured as that of a shepherd for his sheep. This is however not just any shepherd. It is a shepherd who seeks and saves the lost. It is a shepherd whose love for even one sheep would lead him away from the 99 to chase after the one in danger. It is a love that risks and sees the sheep with compassion. From this example of the shepherd, Jesus gives a model of how we should perhaps see our work. We should waste no time when danger is present, and one of those dangers is refusing to forgive or confront a chronically bad situation. One should not forget that when Jesus sent them out to seek a “lost sheep,” that after all these levels of confrontation his warning to treat those refusing reconciliation as the unconverted (as pagans and tax collectors). This is not “excommunication” or shunning people out of legalism. It is essentially to start over, as if they were not a believer. It is essentially, to offer grace anew.
Ultimately this point is rammed home in Jesus’ parable of the Unmerciful Servant. Once again, the issue is “when is enough enough” or “when can I justify breaking relationship?” Jesus points to God’s example of forgiving us and how hypocritical it is to search out reasons to lack mercy rather than seek to model God’s mercy. Those who do this prove themselves ungrateful and even hardhearted to their pagan and tax collecting neighbors. For this, God is outraged and may even regret blessing us so richly. If, when the opportunity to pass it on comes our way, we pass judgment instead, we are not that far off from pagans and tax collectors ourselves.
For this fasting exercise, fast one meal and re-read this passage over again. Imagine yourself as a wondering sheep; where has God rescued you? Imagine yourself taking a shot at confronting and restoring a broken relationship; who would you bring along and how would you keep this gospel movement moving forward? Lastly, imagine yourself in either the role of the unmerciful servant or the King who sees the the plight before him.