Sunday, September 4, 2016

The News is always Good even when it sounds bad

Everyone knows the Gospel is the Good News about Jesus Christ, but not everyone who hears the Gospel hears the news as Good News. On the surface the Gospel may even seem like a dual-personality story. There is forgiveness and there is judgment. There is feeding and there is hunger. There is good and there is evil. And many times both exist in the same story. So why is the Gospel called the Good News if there is so much bad sandwiched between the good?

Take today’s Gospel lesson for example. We see a man who owes a huge amount to the king. He owes so much money that he could never possibly even dream about paying his debt to the king, and the king threatens to throw him in debtors’ prison until the debt is paid. In reality this was a life sentence since he owed more than his life would ever pay, so the man begs for a little more time to pay off the debt. Instead the king forgives every cent he owes and lets the man go free. That same man, just seconds later as he was leaving the king as a free man, bumped into one of his fellows who owed him a small amount. The fellow begged for a little more time to pay off the debt, but the man wouldn’t budge. He threw his fellow in debtor’s prison along with his family until the debt could be paid, about three months. The story concludes with the man being called back by the king who had heard about the situation. The king threw him in prison for the rest of his life.

This Gospel story is about forgiveness. Jesus warns us about not being willing to forgive. He says, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18.35 NKJV) The story doesn’t sound so much like Good News when you come to end and find the man sitting in prison being tortured. The story is a glimpse of heaven and hell. For the moment the man experienced forgiveness he was in heaven. For the moment he refused to forgive his fellow he was in hell. Same man, same story, same Good News, even if sounds bad.

The point of the Gospel is that God is waiting to forgive us. It doesn’t matter how much we owe him. Even if we can’t pay him back, He is willing to forgive us when we ask. And THAT is Good News. It will always be Good News. But if we don’t return the favor and refuse to forgive ANYONE else, the Good News starts to sound bad. If we cannot see the beauty of God’s forgiveness, then we cannot see the reason to forgive others. Keep in mind, the ONLY reason is sounds bad is because WE are not willing to forgive. The News is STILL Good. Let’s look at it another way.

What if the same man was called by the king and told, “You owe me so much money that even if I put you in prison, you will never be able to pay it off. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I understand there is a fellow of yours who owes you a small amount. If you forgive his small debt to you, then I will forgive you large debt.” I suppose the man would have said, “Absolutely! I’ll go tell him right now!” It starts to sound like Good News again doesn’t it? It is just a matter of perspective. So long as the man knew in advance that he could be forgiven his huge debt if he forgave his fellow’s small debt, he would be more willing to forgive.

The truth is, we HAVE been given the Good News in advance. Jesus HAS told us, “Go ahead and forgive your fellow and I will forgive you.” There is no reason to hear the Gospel story as bad news. It is always Good News. We just have to change the way we hear it.

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