KEYS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Mt 16: 13 – 20
In last month’s article we discovered a number of “Keys of the kingdom of Heaven.” First we learned that we are called to live in a manner that will be life-giving to ourselves and to others. The second key is forgiveness. Here we have two lessons that will keep us busy all our lives.
These insights highlight three important experiences all of which are mentioned in the document from the Synod on the Word (Verbum Domini).
- We have come to a deeper understanding of the Word of God. 1
- The Scripture message has been brought to life in a way that helps us realise that God’s Word is present and at work in our everyday lives 2
- Prayerful and frequent reading of the Bible will, in time, deepen our personal relationship with Christ .. and others. 3
Can you think of one word that sums up your relationship with God? Think carefully, because this is a most important relationship and whatever way you see God, you will be changed by it. You may have answered, “love”. Now that is wonderful.
My invitation to you now, is to find your God in Scripture. Matthew 6 will be particularly instructive. Take time to count the number of times you find Father mentioned. I counted eleven times. The lesson here is that our God is all that is best in the image, “Father”. This understanding of God is surely yet another Key to the kingdom. A loving Father is both understanding and forgiving. All that he wants for us is that we live out our lives to the very best of our ability. If we make mistakes he will be there to pick up the pieces and help us to start again. His love for us never waivers.
“I have carved your name on the palm of my hand.” Is 49: 16
“Too costly in the eyes of the Lord, is the death of his faithful.” Ps 116: 15
* * * * * *
“Amen, 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.” Mt 18: 18
In the light of the above quotations from Isaiah and the surrounding texts on forgiveness this statement seems to be saying something quite different. As so often happens when scripture seems not to make sense, there is nothing wrong with scripture, we are reading it with the ‘wrong eyes’. We need to open ourselves to hearing the Word in a different way.
I am sure Matthew realised that we could easily be confused, so uses the parable of the unforgiving servant to explain. Read Mt 18: 23 – 34 now.
He begins, “the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.” (18: 23) The accountants find a man owning a huge amount of money. In order to recover the debt the king decides to sell the whole family into slavery. “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full,” pleads the servant. The compassionate master relents and cancels the debt.
In the second scene this man now meets a fellow servant. A bitter argument follows over money that his fellow servant owes him, not very much. “Be patient ..” he pleads. No mercy is shown and the man is jailed until the debt is paid, in other words, forever for he has no way of earning anything sitting in jail.
* * * * *
In the first scene the king carried out, “whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The burden of debt and guilt was lifted and everyone is at peace. What a transformation forgiveness brought about!
In the second incident we can clearly see, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven”. The unforgiving servant refused to give forgiveness and there was nothing that anybody not even the king could do about it. Each one of us will have many opportunities to when we choose between binding and forgiving each other. If we fail to forgive / loose there is nobody who can change the situation. In fact, matters only get worse.
We return to the parable to see the impact of the servant refusal to forgive.
- “the fellow servants were disturbed,”
- “Then the master became angry.”
- “he handed him over to the torturers.”
The consequences of no forgives in the parable are: the peace of the community is shattered, anger replaces consideration, the compassionate king turns into a sadistic tyrant and the kingdom is all messed up, all because one person refused to forgive. Was it worth it?
(Note: Do not turn a parable into an allegory, eg, do not call the king God).