What does it say?
The disciples asked Jesus “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answered them with the example of a child and said that they shall be like children in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then begins to talk about causing others to stumble and says “woe to him who causes others to stumble.” Whatever causes you to stumble should be removed from your life. The weakest in the congregation should not be despised but cared for the most. God’s will is that all whom he has given to the Son will not perish. Then Jesus begins teaching about relationships in the church. There is a time to severe a relationship because of sin, but not before doing everything possible to get the other person to repent. Meet with the person one on one, then take one or two more, then tell it to the entire church that all may plead with the person, but if the person will not listen to the church, then severe the relationship. What the church decides on earth with loving care, will also be bond in heaven. Peter wanted to know how many times he had to forgive someone and Jesus gave him an answer that did not allow for any un-forgiveness. Then he told a parable about a man who owed a debt to his master that was impossible to ever be repaid in a life time. The master had compassion for the slave and forgave his debt, but the one forgiven did not show the same compassion and forgiveness towards a fellow slave who owed him a debt; therefore, the master became angry and handed him over to be tortured until he should repay his debt. Jesus said that his Father will do the same if you do not forgive your brothers from the heart.
What does it mean?
There are three timeless-universal-principles taught in this text:
- No one in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than anyone else. God is our Father; therefore, we are all equally his children and Jesus Christ is Lord; therefore, we are all equally his subjects. The pastor who teaches the word should not be held higher than the stay at home mother who cares for her baby. All are equal in the kingdom of heaven. This is not so in the kingdom of man but in the kingdom of heaven all are equal.
- The one who struggles the most with sin should be cared for the most. We should take great care not to become a stumbling block for the person who struggles with a particular sin. However, sin most be dealt with and the person who is sinning most be confronted. There is a time to severe a relationship within the church but not before great effort is taken to get the person to repent.
- There is no un-forgiveness of others in the church. God has forgiven us a debt that we cannot pay. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.6:23) For our sin against God, we deserve death. Not just the death of our bodies, but the death of our soul, the lake of fire, the second death. Jesus paid our penalty on the cross; therefore, we should forgive all who sin against us without exception.
What shall I do?
I shall not think that I am better than anyone. All are equal in the kingdom of heaven. I shall not become a stumbling block for others. I shall not be put off because I may not have the freedom to do what I want to do because of caring for someone else in the congregation. I shall take great care when one of my brothers is living in sin. It is not the will of God that any of his children should perish. I shall forgive all who sin against me because God has forgiven me of a debt that I cannot pay.