One Sunday in five I do a ‘Letter from Dublin’ piece for the Sunday morning programme on Downtown Radio in Northern Ireland. Mostly it’s folksy, quirky stuff; the sort of bland, inoffensive stuff that one expects from the church. Recording a piece for next Sunday, I felt it was time for a bit of full-blooded Christianity and used something I wrote here a few weeks ago.
Will the producer run it?
Christians annoy me sometimes. We get very worked up about the little things, and we say nothing about the big things, even when the Bible is clear about things.
I don’t know about Northern Ireland, but here in Dublin a lot of people are worried about their mortgages. Houses were bought at expensive prices and now the prices are falling and people are losing their jobs because of the recession and the banks are taking people’s homes from them.
You would think that protecting people’s homes would be important to Christians, aren’t we always talking about the importance of family life? Maybe the churches in the North are speaking out. I don’t hear anything from the churches here.
What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do about banks that have been given huge sums of money to help them out, but then pursue people for sums that are a tiny fraction of the sums they have been forgiven? What would he do about banks that repossess people’s houses, leaving them with no home to live in?
Do you know the story from Saint Matthew Chapter 18, verses 21 to 35? It seems fairly straightforward to me about what Jesus thinks about those who have been forgiven, but refuse to forgive.
For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.
So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’
Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
To me, it always seemed to be a great piece of exaggeration to make a point. Ten thousand talents is five hundred thousand times as much as one hundred denarii; no-one forgiven so much would pursue anyone who owed so little in comparison. This would be like someone who was forgiven fifty billion pursuing someone who owed them one hundred thousand, or someone who was forgiven five billion pursuing someone who owed them ten thousand, it would seem absurd.
I ask myself just how much have banks been forgiven? And for what sums of money are they pursuing people through the courts?
And when I hear that someone has lost their home, I ask myself what are the churches saying, and then I ask myself, what Jesus would say?