Matthew 18:23-35 – We are redeemed so that we can be like Jesus, not so that we can receicive gifts instead of coal.

Something's wrong here. Credits: Andrew Kitzmiller/Flickr

Sometimes we imagine God to be a lot like Santa Clause. A distant but benevolent figure with a list…. But the God of the bible is very different. He agonizes over us. Desiring to sweep us into his presence while hating our detestable, ugly sin.

23“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.h 24When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.i 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26So the servantj fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,k and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,l until he should pay all his debt. 35So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

When talking about the reliability of the bible, a unbelieving friend of mine exclaimed, “The bible is great. But it’s metaphorical! Not to be taken seriously.” Yes, that’s true. The bible is full of metaphors, fables, parables and the like. But like this one from Matthew 18:23-35, the metaphors are often explained – like an analogy. The bible uses metaphors to tell about literal truths. No-one uses a metaphor to explain a metaphor.

This parable hits me hard. It’s actually very simple. Super easy to understand. I’m not amazed at all by it’s profundity. I think an eleven year old could have thought of this parable. I’m struck by the seriousness of it.

Sometimes we imagine God to be a lot like Santa Clause. A distant but benevolent figure with a list. He checks it twice to find out who’s naughty and who’s nice. Then without being seen, he comes and gives us something good if we are nice. Or coal if we aren’t.

But the God of the bible is very different. He agonizes over us. Desiring to sweep us into his presence while hating our detestable, ugly sin. He does not simple reward goodness with a present once a year–he gives everything he owns. And he does not reward naughtiness with coal. He punishes sin to expose it for the ugliness it truly is.

And what a sharp reminder this parable is. Especially for me this week, as I’ve been pondering the frailty of my condition-being an imperfect person trying to live a perfect life. I can’t even manage my banking.

Some how this entry has turned into me comparing God with Santa. That wasn’t deliberate, but I’m going with it. Because while we might see God as a jolly man with a white beard, we don’t see Santa wearing a crown of thorns with a torn body hanging on a crucifiction cross. Why? Because We’ve never sinned against Santa. He is no-body, and if he doesn’t like us he can give us coal if he wants – it doesn’t effect us that much.
But when it comes to God, our creator, and authority–we have a debt to pay. He’s less concerned with whether or not we are naughty or nice and more concerned with whether we can do what we were created to do. Id est; whether or not we can reflect character and bring him glory.

This parable is a sharp reminder to the two faced “Christian” who claims to be covered by the blood of Christ, but he himself does not want to be in Christ. Because to be in Christ is to be like Christ and to be like Christ is to forgive. There is no sense in redemption for the person who does not want to be like Jesus who is God in man. For that is what we are redeemed to be. We are redeemed from a life that is centered around ourselves, thus eventuating in decay.  And we are redeemed to a life that is centered inextricably around our perfect, loving and holy creator.

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