July 1, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Learning Forgiveness from A God’s-Eye Perspective
Matthew 18:21-35

Read this article as a Word Document

“We Are a Forgiving People Because We Are a Forgiven People”

Unless and until we see that we have a need for the divine forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ, we will not be effective in carrying out the gospel ministry. Our missionary efforts and outreach projects will be hollow, just as our lives are empty. When we perceive God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ personally, we will understand the essentiality of forgiving others. In this parable, Jesus admonishes Peter, who thinks he has developed a reasonable formula on forgiveness. “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22 MSG).

I believe Jesus is teaching Peter and us that forgiveness is not to be in short supply; we do not need to ration it or control it. Forgiveness is to be available without restraint. The crux of Christian faith is that we are a forgiving people because we are a forgiven people! Our forgiveness fuels our faith; forgiveness relieves us of the burden and baggage of holding grudges.

On June 18, 2018, Antwon Rose of Pittsburgh died; the Allegheny County medical examiner declared his death a homicide. Antwon was fleeing a police officer.[1] This incomprehensible death has exacerbated tensions in the black community as yet another teenager is buried. His hopes and dreams are dead, his family shattered. There are protests, yet many are growing weary of protests that bring insignificant change. Others are exhausted by the inconvenience of the protests that close highways and city intersections, or are apathetic about the reasons for protests. I am often asked why I and other clergy do not lead our community in racial reconciliation efforts. I do. I am often asked why I and other clergy do not teach our youth to assimilate, to not live so publicly by cultural habits, fashion, and interactions. I cannot and will not.

Racial reconciliation requires everyone to acknowledge that racial discrimination exists and impacts certain groups in systemic ways. It requires an intentional, consistent commitment from all sides. Can you or I make a difference individually? Yes, we can and we must. We must seek forgiveness for intentional and unintentional complicity in racial oppression. Those privileged to be born in a race that does not require them to be constantly aware of where they are, with whom they are, and where the exits are located must use that privilege as power to dismantle racist societal systems and structures as well as personal bias.

When we recognize the endless forgiveness God has given us, we will willingly extend forgiveness. Moreover, we will discipline ourselves to share with others how to enter into this life-changing and everlasting forgiveness. Will our efforts change society? Yes! As for me, I was amazed and elated during the funeral for my beloved nephew killed in street violence to see members from a suburban, traditionally and predominantly white church make their way to the inner city and the urban church where services were held. Their presence was a living testimony to the power of God’s infinite forgiveness. No racial conflict occurred. These brave souls were received with hospitality. They left with changed minds and hearts about a community of people within their own community, whom they did not know.

Let’s reflect on the forgiveness we receive through Jesus Christ and become vessels of forgiveness in our families and communities.

—Kelly Bates Oglesby, kellyoglesby@gmail.com

© 2018

1. Darran Simon & Hollie Silverman, “The Death of the Unarmed Teen Killed by an East Pittsburg Police Officer Is Ruled a Homicide,” CNN, June 22, 2018.

Kelly Bates Oglesby of Indianapolis, Indiana, is our ABS Online writer for Justice in the New Testament, our Summer 2018 study. She is joyfully married to Herman Oglesby. Kelly enjoys writing and teaching. She is discerning opportunities for pastoral ministry.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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