Children, Temptation, Sheep, And Forgiveness
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The disciples wanted to find out who would be the greatest in the kingdom, so they asked Jesus directly. The questions had likely arisen from their competitiveness and rivalry over who was the best among them, as Peter, James, and John had just returned from spending time with Jesus on the mountain. In response, Jesus called a small child to stand before them and used the example of the child's humility to explain the meaning of greatness in the kingdom. Jesus wanted to emphasize that kingdom greatness is measured by service and humility, not by strength and power, and warned them of the consequences of anyone who caused the little ones to sin.
Temptations are unavoidable; however, Jesus teaches that this does not give us the right to yield to them. To be devoted to Jesus is to strive for holiness, a state of purity that the Holy Spirit can only achieve. We must remain diligent in fighting the beast of sin since allowing it to take control will lead to self-destruction.
The family of faith ought to safeguard and support one another. As pointed out by Jesus, these little ones are precious to the shepherd, who makes every effort to find them and rejoices when they're returned. Likewise, we should be mindful of the family of God and take care of the little ones. The shepherd is diligent in keeping his sheep safe.
When someone sins against us, what should our response be? The Bible sets out clear guidelines. Instead of spreading the complaint, we should discuss the issue directly with the person. We must approach the situation with love, not a desire for them to grovel or plead for forgiveness. If the parties cannot reconcile, the offended party should bring it before the church. If the person refuses to make things right, they must be cut off from the church, as it shows stubborn resistance to God's authority. We must understand the greatness of God's forgiveness, as demonstrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant. No matter how difficult it may seem, we must forgive others, just as God has forgiven us. We can look to Jesus as our ultimate example of how to forgive. As Jesus hung on the cross, he prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). It is only through the grace and love of Jesus that we can find it in our hearts to forgive. We are freed from anger, bitterness, and resentment when we forgive. Instead, we open ourselves up to a life of joy and peace by forgiving. No matter what someone has done, our default response should be to forgive, just as Jesus has done for us.
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