The Forgiveness Limit

Matthew 18:21-35    No one ever said forgiveness was easy. Forgiveness does not just happen. It has to be intentional, specific to a person or a group regarding a harmful action or inaction. It is a response to being a recipient of God’s forgiveness that we naturally move toward becoming forgivers. But we are bean counters, we like to keep score, to keep track, to keep things even or fair. Peter represents us all when he asks Jesus to put some limits on forgiveness. He figures that since the rabbis teach that forgiving someone 3 times is satisfying the legal limit, that if he suggests forgiving someone 7 times he would be more than generous, even more than double what is required. He wants Jesus to quantify forgiveness, to tell him how much he expects. That is because we human beings have a natural tendency to forgive with conditions and calculators. Continue reading

Patient Persistence

Matthew 15:21-28 (8.20.17)        It is another story of a woman interrupting Jesus. Like the woman at the well in John’s gospel, she is not Jewish. And both encounters take place outside of Israel, when Jesus has crossed the line into unwashed territory. Matthew tells us this woman is Canaanite… part of the people who had opposed the Israelites in the long ago battle over the real estate we call the Holy Land. When Mark tells the same story, he identifies her as a Syrophoenician woman, a Greek. Both are clear that she is not a Jew, but a Gentile. She is from the regions of Tyre and Sidon, coastal cities on the outside northern edges of Israel, in what was called Canaan, then Syria, then Phoenicia, named for the purple dye found in that part of the world. She is a Gentile living in Gentile territory.
What is Jesus doing there in the first place? I don’t think it is his summer vacation on the Mediterranean coast. Continue reading