For many of us, life is very busy, a hurried daily struggle. We have many priorities to consider and often have to rush through our daily routine. In verses 1-5, Jesus urges us to return to a much simpler, unaffected life of trust, innocence, compliance, and contentment. He reminds us to rely completely on God's kindness, comply with His will, and to find contentment in heaven's many blessings. He calls us back to the innocent perspective of a little child.
If we can embrace an uncomplicated, uncluttered, childlike view of life's priorities we are much better able to embrace the things of God. This isn't a call to childishness, but an invitation to a Christ-like simplicity often seen in little children.
In verses 6-9, Jesus gives us a warning. He wants us to ask ourselves: Are we in any way misleading others spiritually? Are you encouraging your spouse, children, friends, fellow church members to blend their allegiance to God with the pleasures of this world? What a terrible thing it will be in the judgment day if you have contributed to even one person’s spiritual loss. If you are in a position of leadership, the risks and responsibility of misleading others is even greater.
This is not a literal command to amputate and remove body parts. It means we must separate ourselves from that which influences us and influences others to do wrong.
In the next three verses (15-17) we are told that if a brother sins we are to tell him his fault; and in Luke 17:3 it says to “rebuke" our brother for his sins. This is a strong word. The concept to be conveyed is actually one of accountability and responsibility for each other’s wayward behavior. This includes kindly, thoughtfully, and very carefully pointing out sinful behavior in a most redemptive manner. The method of properly admonishing others needs to be prayerfully conceived and delicately delivered.
The lesson in verses 21-35 is twofold. First we are reminded that God's capacity for forgiveness is immense and all inclusive. In turn, we are entrusted with the responsibility and privilege of sharing an attitude of forgiveness toward others just as we have been forgiven over and over again by our loving and compassionate God.
A dear friend pointed out to me that when Jesus spoke of forgiving others "seventy times seven" He was speaking of a continual attitude and willingness to forgive. When we consider the number of times God is willing to forgive, we should present a forgiving spirit towards others.
Let us remember that an end of God’s forgiveness will come (Daniel 5:26, 27 and Revelation 22:11), but the righteous will shine as the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3 and Matthew 13:43).
Leo Van Dolson, Jr., M.D., MPH