Readings for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12; Genesis 50:15-21

Every family has certain behaviors on which they place a premium value. (No doubt, at one time or another you’ve heard a parent say, “Hey stop that! We don’t DO that in our family!”

Sunday’s readings remind us that, for Christians, forgiveness is a family value. Forgiveness is not optional but essential to our life together in Jesus Christ. And that’s because forgiveness is also an essential gift we receive from God as part of our restored relationship with Him.

Jesus answers Peter’s question on forgiveness with a parable about an unforgiving servant. The servant expected mercy from his master while refusing to show mercy to a fellow servant. Jesus sternly warns that those who refuse to forgive will stand under God’s judgment (Matt 18).

The Old Testament lesson recalls the beautiful example of forgiveness and reconciliation of Joseph. With an opportunity to dish out some payback to his brothers for their cruel abuse, Joseph chooses to forgive and make peace with his brothers. He does so, not because his brothers are such swell guys, but because God had shown Himself faithful, powerful and trustworthy as Joseph’s (and Israel’s) Savior (Gen 50).

In the Epistle lesson, Paul instructs Christians not to quarrel and quibble over matters that are based more on opinion than the Word of God. He reminds us that a Christian’s conscience is sacred, and there are a variety of ways individual believers may choose to honor God (Rom 14).