Blog / Book of the Month / (Un) Forgiveness/ Matthew 18:21-35 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Sunday September 13th 2020 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

(Un) Forgiveness/ Matthew 18:21-35 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Sunday September 13th 2020 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

(Un) Forgiveness/ Matthew 18:21-35 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Sunday September 13th 2020 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Text: Matthew 18.21-35
Theme: (Un)Forgiveness
IntrThere are diseases that sometimes are labeled as the "disease of the Century" for their high destructive power and high toll death, combined with a lack of a more effective treatment and cure for it at their time. The Black Plague in the 1300-1400, dysinteria in the 1700-1800, tuberculosis in the 1800's, the Spanish flu in the 1900 are some of the names that could be remembered in this connection. Years ago I heard about depression being also considered de disease of the century in the 1900’s, at least in the tail end of it.

What is the disease of the 2000's? I think I can almost hear you voicing out even without thinking much, "The novel coronavirus".   Seems that this is the #1 option with the others trailing it by much. So much so that there are estimates of more people dying from Cancer and others illnesses than normal in the next few years because preventative exams were mostly halted around the world to focus on that virus.

I agree with that in one way. But I also disagree. Actually I have a different suggestion for the disease of the century. But let's see first how the corona virus works.

How does the new coronavirus spread? - As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.

How did this new coronavirus spread to humans? - COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China.

What are symptoms of COVID-19? symptoms include: Cough , Fever or chills , Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, Muscle or body aches, Sore throat, New loss of taste or smell, Diarrhea, Headache, Nausea or vomiting, Congestion or runny nose.  In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.

How is it diagnosed? - Diagnosis may be difficult with only a physical exam because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold. A laboratory test can confirm the diagnosis.

How is it treated? - As of now, there is not a specific treatment for the virus. People who become sick from COVID-19 should be treated with supportive measures: those that relieve symptoms.

Does it cause death? - As of September 11, 2020, 910,140 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. However, 19,022,319 people have recovered from the illness.

How do you protect yourself from this coronavirus? - It’s crucial to practice good hygiene, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing.” [1]

         It sounds pretty bad, and we are all taking all the precaution measures we can, including here in the Church. Now as bad as it may be, this novel coronavirus is not the disease of the last decade or so. Here is my suggestion of the worst plague we are witnessing in our time: Unforgiveness. Just like the coronaviruses, it’s nothing new. But just like the virus it has become more intense, widespread and even useful lately, intensified by the power we have to post a message online that can make the world ‘round in a matter of seconds.

        That it is nothing new we see from the reading of Matthew 18: Peter tries to be nice and lenient offering to forgive 7 times, since the rule of the day said that 3 times is already a bucket full of compassion and mercy. Jesus amps the ante and shoots the number through the roof. 70 x 7.

        It is a bill none of us is willing to pay though. That's way too much money and effort to be spent in a relationship. “Please, learn how to correct your mistakes after 7 times. Otherwise, you are not worth trying.”  As He knew we would think this way, Jesus tells the parable of and unforgiving servant. He is forgiven but is not willing to forgive.

        Unforgiveness. That's the disease Jesus is tackling in this text. That's the illness that has been spreading faster that coronavirus and infecting quickly millions of hearts. It is not the illness of the century. It is the disease of the centuries.

        Look around. One online post; a misplaced word or act, an action you regret; being on the wrong side of things; having your past excavated to see if there’s something dirty to expose on the eyes of present cultural shifts. Depending on who you are, on which side of the ideological street you walk or which forbidden faith or teaching you espouse, that's it. You may be summarily accused, judged, condemned and punished. You may lose your job, your career, your reputation. In most extreme cases you may lose your life. The spiritual death toll caused by unforgiveness remains unmatched by any illness in History, and by all of them pulled together. It is just terribly lethal.

        Should we expect a vaccine to be created to this illness of the century? Well it has been already, but it is largely ignored. There was a man who was willing to shed his innocent blood to provide the cure for unforgiveness. But when you want to mention His name these days, unforgiveness has even been extended to Him! Jesus didn't fight slavery hard enough, he didn't support diversity enough, didn’t fight for women’s rights enough, His word contains lots of bigotry and discrimination, and so forth. God has provided forgiveness, freely, to all. Now unforgiveness is extended to Him. That prayer on the cross makes even more sense: “Forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

        Nonetheless, the vaccine is already provided. Drawing a parallel with the corona virus, here is how it works:

How does Unforgiveness spread? – At birth. We are all born is sin and we come to this world infected by it. It travels not through the air but through blood.

How did this sin spread to humans? – From Satan. Adam and Eve were tempted by him on The Garden of Eden and the Fall happened,

What are symptoms of this illness? They include: Pride, Unmercifulness, Selfishness, Lack of love, anger, fights, Coveting, Jealousy… In all cases, it leads to severe heart problems, personal failure and death.

How is it diagnosed? – By the Law of God. As we look into the perfection it demands, we know we are sinners and that unforgiveness is inside us

How is it treated? – By Christ, and Christ alone. His death brought forgiveness of sins and life. We are forgiven, now we can forgive. Peter's question is in connection with last Sunday's Gospel reading where Jesus teaches the three steps for bringing forgiveness to a sinning brother or sister. Forgive. And again. And again.

Does it cause death? – Yes. Unforgiveness is a deadly disease and it needs to be treated with the medicine of Word and Sacraments. "the Law shows us God's wrath against sin. But we gain the victory through Christ. How? Through faith, when we comfort yourselves by confidence in the mercy promised for Christ's sake." [2].

How do you share the cure and protect ourselves from this illness? – It is not easy. Not at all. When people commit minor mistakes against us, "no problem" slips easily from our lips. But when major sins are committed, old self doesn’t want to settle for just a few words. Whereas treatment, conversations and daily struggle may take place, the ultimate goal is to always bring forgiveness about. Remember, the debt forgiven to that guy in the parable was beyond any possibility of remittance. And he did not forgive a much smaller amount from his fellow servant. Whenever you see yourself before a sin you are having a hard time to forgive, remember: what if I had to be condemned, mocked, killed on a cross and spend eternity in the torment of hell? That’s the debt Christ paid in your place. In the strength of the Holy Spirit we work against unforgiveness.

In this case, it is not by distancing, but by being close, together with Him, in Word and Sacraments that we have protection, salvation, cure.

Cc - As we you live in an ever increasingly unforgiving and punishing world, never forget you safe harbor: The Church of Christ, the Word, the Sacraments. There is no chance God will stop you halfway and say; "uh oh. Not this time. I have already forgiven you 35 times. Turn around and go away". Forgiveness is always there, certain, pure and comforting. Always there; always for you. If  unforgiveness is the illness of the centuries, God’s Grace is the certainty that we won’t die. We will live. His Grace is the cure in secula seculorum. The expression we use to say: for all ages, for all the centuries. For ever and ever.


[1] Source:
[2] Apology of the Confession, Article IV, page 94, paragraph  79