And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent’, you must forgive him.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.
7 “Will any one of you who has a servant ploughing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterwards you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
How can we be of best service to the community and to God? Certainly not by being the one who brings it down. This passage reflects a body of teaching by Jesus about community. Matthew 18 makes some of the same points. The millstone in Capernaum was pulled around in a circle by donkeys attached to it by wooden beams. To have that around your neck and to be thrown into The Sea of Galilee was to be dead. There is no way back from that. In Chicago, here, we would start talking about concrete shoes and being thrown into Lake Michigan. That kind of highlights the violence. Jesus is using stark imagery to say how important it is to preserve unity in the community. This is ironic as we look back on the twentieth century and see how a church that is encouraged to unity has continuously split because of two factions that insist they are right about non-essentials.
The identity of the Christian is one of a servant. We are to give up our rights voluntarily. We then serve God. It baffles me how the message of the faith has been changed so that we expect God to serve us. Some Christians listen to Focus on the Family to hear ways that God can serve their family. Others listen to Focus on the Family to think of new ways their family can serve God. Another timely warning from the passage is against those who believe that they are in a reciprocal relationship with God. “I’ve worked in his fields all day, now that we are done, he can make me a cup of tea!” There is no obligation on God’s part to do anything for us. If there was, his actions towards us would be justice and not grace. If we want justice we will die and excruciating death. Our whole obligation is continuously look for avenues to serve rather than to be served. It is then grace that God lavishes the rewards of sonship upon us. We become more happy when we realise that we deserve nothing and receive everything.
Jesus, let me walk with you to serve the Father. Help me to let myself serve and not look to be served. Help me to understand what it means to sacrifice myself for someone bigger than myself.
- To whom was Jesus talking?
- How is community enhanced by Jesus’ teaching?
- What is the meaning of the parable?
- How do you forgive others?
- How do you serve God without looking for him ever to serve you? What kind of feelings do you have when God does serve you?