Matthew 18:21-35; Philippians 1:3-11; Micah 6:6-8

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Oh we’re out for justice in our day. We’re a litigious, prickly society, always concerned with who owes us what. We are touchy and edgy about anyone who is victimizing us. There’s little turning the other cheek these days. No letting bygones be bygones. Its about “justice”. Fairness. Equality of outcome. Completely apart from effort. Outcomes must all be the same. Or it isn’t “fair”. The fact that the term SJW—Social Justice Warrior—is so common and that everyone is afraid to say anything because you don’t know who you’ll offend shows how much we are concerned not with what is good and loving toward your neighbour, but rather with what “I am owed”. What I can get. And whether you shake your head in disapproval of the things I listed, or nod head in agreement with them we all fall prey to these attitude which is so prevalent. It’s the culture we live in, the air we breath. We’re out for justice. Our own justice. 

Well Christ our Lord is out for justice too. He is the source of all truth, all justice. (John 16:13; 1:17; 14:6) Justice is the foundation of His throne. (Ps. 89:14; 97:2) He is source of all truth, since He is maker of heaven and earth. And one of the foundations of our culture that has enabled our culture to thrive, which is based on Christian thought is that truth is the foundation of everything. The truth shall set you free. (John 8:32) Truth is powerful. And yet, we live in a jaded time. Where we ask the apathetic question of Pontius Pilate when he was face to face with Jesus who is the fullness of truth (John 1:14), “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Unwilling to answer. Wanting nothing to be true so that no one can make claims on us and on our time, we wallow in our self-inflicted misery. Unwilling to take up any responsibility toward others, towards things larger than ourselves, toward our fellow man, even toward own family at times. But we’re out for justice. By which we mean, we’re out for as much as we can get for ourselves.

Christ is out for justice, but not in that self-serving sense. He is out for truth. He is out for what is right because He is the source of all truth. (John 1:14) Because He is the source of all righteous judgement (Ps. 51:4; Rom. 3:4) He had to act. He looked down at our world, at our sins small and large, at our twisted sense of “justice”, at our constant demand that you “Recognize me! Give me my fair share!” He knew that when the roosters come home to roost, when we reap what we have sown (Gal. 6:7; Prov. 22:8; Hos. 10:13, etc.), on the Last Day when He must open the books and make just judgements of the living and the dead according to their works that not a single one of us would end up with Him. We would all go down in flames. For our ways are not His ways. (Isa. 55:8-9) Our “justice” is not His justice. His justice is built on truth. On compassion. Ours is only “compassionate” in so far as it seeks compassion for me. Compassion on my needs, my desires, my difficulties. For we are out for ourselves. For what we can get. Repent.

But Christ’s justice is truly tempered by His steadfast love. He does not demand of you infant sacrifice for your sin. (Mic. 6:7) He will not sell your wife and child to settle your debt. (Matt. 18:25-27) As if that could! He is steadfast in love. He is merciful and just. And so that He could still speak truth, even while pardoning you of your great debts to Him, He had to settle your debt within Himself. He paid the debt your sin owes not merely by writing it off as a loss, but specifically by taking your sin on Himself. Making it His. Paying for it with His own blood. Like a parent settling their child’s debts when they crash the car, and of your own accord, in love, you pay from your own pocket, for child's debt. He does this in His own flesh. (2 Cor. 5:21) Out of love for you so that all debts are paid in Him. (Matt. 18:27)

And the servant in the parable owed a great debt. (Matt. 18:24) A talent is about 20 years wages for an average worker. And somehow this servant had borrowed, or stolen, or spent a colossal sum. 20 years wages times 10,000. Billions upon billions of dollars. There was no way he’d ever pay it off. No way even selling all he owned and his wife and children too could ever pay for that, even if they divvied the man up and sold his organs! Impossible. And yet out of pity for the man the Lord in parable did not due what was just. For in deeply felt compassion He was not out for his own justice. For His own rights. But forgave this man this colossal sum.

And if you had been forgiven an unplayable debt without having to declare bankruptcy; if you were let off scot-free; what is the just, the right, the joyously thankful thing to do? To live out that mercy, that steadfast love you have been shown! To let go of the stress, the worry you formerly lived in, along with your accompanying mistreatment of others due to your stress. To let go of, and no longer keep track of what you are owed. So that when someone comes along who owes you an entirely payable debt—whether you’re talking financially, morally, or emotionally—having been forgiven so much, wouldn’t your overflowing joy and relief cause you to just let go and forgive all such small potatoes debts? 100 denarii? (Matt. 18:28) 3-4 months wages. No biggie compared to billions. I was just forgiven a debt unpayable in several lifetimes. I’ll pay the mercy I’ve received forward. 

This is what God’s great favour towards you does. It transforms you. It increases in you the same love which God the Father has for you toward your fellow man so that hearts burning with love toward one another we are overjoyed to pay forward the same grace we have received.

But in our day we find our love growing cold. (Matt. 24:12) This kind of love is a mark of a Christian. (1 John 4:19) But in a world of increasing wickedness the love of many becomes the love of self. Love of what I am owed. Being out for a twisted sense of justice. It causes you to be a money grubber. A score-settler. You tell yourself this is about justice. About what is right for you and those around you who can’t stand up for themselves. But its not. In your sinful heart you always want what you want when you want it. And the world around you is encouraging those unloving instincts, all while telling you this is the compassionate thing to do. Be out for justice. For you are a victim. You are owed.

But that is not the way of love. For you are a victim of the sin you were born with. You are a victim of the wicked desire that resides inside you. But Christ Jesus has paid the debt you owe. Not only settling your account, but granting you life in His kingdom as one of His household, with all His grace and wealth at your disposal. You have grace upon grace to hand out to others! (John 1:16) So that when they repent and recognize their wrong, you want to forgive them. And you do forgive them as Christ has forgiven you. Just as you pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. (Matt. 6:12)

Christ loved you on the cross. He paid your debt. So that you might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) humbly with your God. (Mic. 6:8) So that you might do justice, Jesus’ style, settling accounts by telling others how He has already settled yours and their accounts not with silver or gold but with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. And thereby you might love kindness and mercy. It’s not an easy way of life, for it is not the justice of this world. But it is a joyous way of life, overflowing from the merciful justice—or Justification—which you have received when Christ declared your debt forgiven on account of His cross. 

In +Jesus’ name, Amen. 

—Pastor David Haberstock