Title: Keep On Forgiving
Theme: Forgiving others as God forgives us. Proper 19 (24) Year A
Object: A soccer ball, a yellow card and a red card.
Scripture: Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)
Do you like sports? What do you think is the most popular sport in the world? Most articles that I have read seem to agree that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. If you are playing or watching soccer, it is very important to know and follow the rules. How many know what this is? (Hold up the yellow card.) Even if you have never seen a soccer game, you could probably figure out that this is called a yellow card. In a soccer game, the referee holds up a yellow card to warn a player for a dangerous or unsportsmanlike play. For example, if a player tries to kick the ball out of the goalie’s hands, that is dangerous. The goalie could be hurt, so the referee shows the player a yellow card as a warning not to do it again. If that player makes another dangerous play, the referee shows him the yellow card again, but then he would show him this card. (Hold up the red card.) Do you know what that means? The player is out of the game! That is pretty rough punishment, isn’t it? You get one warning and then you are out! In baseball, the batter gets three strikes before he’s out. In basketball, a player gets five or six fouls before he is out. The sport of soccer isn’t very forgiving, is it?
How many times do you think a person should be forgiven for doing something wrong? Once? Twice? Three times? If you were to ask Jesus how many times you should forgive someone, what do you think he would say? Well, we don’t have to guess, because the Bible gives us the answer.
One day, Peter asked Jesus, “How many times should I forgive someone who sins against me? Should I forgive him seven times?” I imagine that Peter thought he was being pretty generous to forgive someone seven times. I don’t know about you, but I think I agree with Peter. To forgive someone seven times is be pretty generous. Guess what? Jesus didn’t agree.
Jesus answered Peter, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.”
Wow! Seventy times seven! That’s four hundred and ninety times. I think that before I got to four hundred and ninety I would lose count. You know, I think that is probably what Jesus was trying to get Peter to understand and he wants us to understand it too. We shouldn’t worry about keeping count of how many times we have forgiven someone — we should just keep on forgiving. Isn’t that what God does? He doesn’t keep count of how many times he has forgiven us. He just keeps on forgiving.
Some churches have a soccer league for boys and girls in grades K-6 called Upward Soccer. Most of the rules are the same as regular soccer, but there is one rule that is very different. In Upward soccer, there are no yellow cards and no red cards! I like that rule. We all make mistakes and we all do things that we should not do, so let’s forgive them – at least four hundred and ninety times!
Dear Father, we are thankful that you love us and forgive us without keeping count. Help us to love and forgive others as you have forgiven us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Note: The game that we call soccer in the U.S. is known as football in some countries. Please make this change if appropriate.