When you want to prevent others from receiving forgiveness

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It only really struck me with force when I was actually preaching on Sunday. I guess it was because I was preaching specifically on this incident for the first time from Matthew’s Gospel, I’ve spoken on it many times from Luke’s Gospel but not from here. Matthew really brings out the hard hearted merciless ways of the religious leaders.

Both Matthew and Luke tell us that they question Jesus’ authority to forgive sin. Both tell us that Jesus responds with the question about what is easier and both show him demonstrating his authority to forgive but Matthew adds in this quote:

13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ [1]

It struck me, not just that these Pharisees questioned the authority of Jesus here but that they had no desire whatsoever to see this man forgiven.  Their own status and doctrine (note not doctrine rooted in Scripture as Jesus points out) came ahead of their concern for mercy.  The man’s sin was not really their business but that did not matter to them.

A few weeks back I wrote about the challenges we face in offering forgiveness. However as well as those seeking to offer forgiveness and those seeking to receive it, there is often a third group around. This group is made up of those who are not affected by the issue in hand, have not been hurt and yet have managed to take offence against the repentant sinner and therefore have a strong opinion about whether or not they should be forgiven.  They are what we would sometimes refer to as busybodies.

Don’t be a busybody. Make sure that you willingly offer forgiveness to those who have offended you. Furthermore, please don’t go around interfering in other disputes trying to prevent mercy.

[1] Matthew 9:13

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