Bible Reading: Matthew 18:21-25
The elder brother was not just angry, bitter, and proud, but also unforgiving and judgmental. He had no forgiveness or care for his younger brother.
There is a remarkable difference between the first two parables in Luke chapter 15, of the lost sheep and lost coin, and then the story of the lost son. In the first two parables, someone went to find what was lost, but nobody went to rescue the lost son. The father knew that he had to release him, but if the elder brother cared about his younger brother then maybe he should have gone looking for him.
Perhaps the elder brother should have said, “Father, my younger brother has been a fool, and now his life is in ruins. But I will go and look for him and bring him home. And if the inheritance is gone, as I expect, I’ll bring him back into the family at my expense”. But instead of grace, the elder brother could only judge his younger brother and refuse to forgive him.
The elder brother may have been obedient and submissive to his father but he himself was in great danger of judgment. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you [Matthew 7:1-2]. What a challenge! We will be judged by the same measure that we judge others. It is the law of proportionate returns.
The same law of proportionate returns also applies in the case of forgiveness. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” [Matthew 6:14-15]. If we do not forgive others then we ourselves cannot expect to be forgiven.
Instead of judging people because of their lifestyle, let’s instead allow God’s grace to fill us, and His love permeate to others. Paul says it very plainly in when he wrote to the Galatians, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” [Galatians 6:1-3].
Have you had an elder brother attitude and been judgmental and unforgiving of someone, especially if they have hurt you? Will you ask God to help you and to show you how you can reach out to that person with His love?
What lessons can you learn from our reading today in Matthew 18:21-35 about forgiveness? What happens to the person who does not forgive?