MATTHEW 18-20 We are living out this incredible story called humanity together. Jesus is giving us clarity in our journey concerning our purpose and priorities in this real life drama. The first purpose is eternal life in God’s kingdom of heaven. All we do should be to secure this precious gift of life. Next is how we are to live together in this life. We should do all we can to heal and mend relationships, 18:15-35. How to deal with a sinning brother and how we need to forgive one another. The two go hand in hand in restoring a fractured relationship. They also tie to the previous teachings on offenses and the lost sheep. How should we act when a brother has sinned against us? We are to go to that believer and do our best to work out the hurt. This requires humility and patience. Our egos need to be put aside. If that does not work, take two or three brothers to help heal. If that does not work, take the sin before the church. If that does not produce healing through repentance then that person is to be asked to leave the body of believers. This process can be difficult, but its intent is to be done in love with the desire for life. Some call this tough love. God is after our heart to be broken of pride and sinful actions and to bring us home in love and humility. The second teaching promotes forgiveness on our part. We should always be willing to forgive the one who has sinned against us. Jesus uses His Father’s forgiveness for us in a parable of a king and his unforgiving servant. God has forgiven us of a multitude of sins which has a heavy price of death and separation from God. If God forgives us of our sins, then we should have God’s heart in forgiving those who sin against us. The act of forgiveness cannot be overstated in healing relationships. No matter the act of sin against us, the value of maintaining a relationship has priority in the relationship. Despite our hurt we should always forgive. This is not too hard when the offense is not great, but it is very hard when the sin has greatly hurt us. Still the act of forgiveness has priority. That does not mean if we forgive we have to stay in the relationship such as abuse or sexual misconduct. Forgiveness will set us free from the bondage of revenge or deep hurt. I have had friends whose son was murdered go to the murderer in prison and forgive the killer. I cannot imagine how hard that was, but it brought tremendous healing to them and to the murderer. With God all things are possible. It may take much time, lots of prayer and counseling to come to where one forgives, but it is worth the effort. For unforgiveness is a prison that produces bitterness and destroys relationships and grieves the one sinned against. This grief often never ends until one forgives the offender. God in His love forgave us of all of our sins. He will enable you to forgive. Keep making the choice to forgive until you know you have truly forgiven. Then let it go and you will be healed.