When Christians gather in small groups for a Bible Study, someone often quotes Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Jesus is with us! Well, of course, but is he with you when you are alone? Of course! So what makes this verse special? Not small group Bible studies, as good as that is. When we read what comes before and after Matthew 18:20, we discover it is about something much more, much better.
What follows is Peter asking how many times he should forgive his brother, suggesting seven, and Jesus replying, “not seven, but seventy-seven” (Matthew 18:22). Jesus then tells a story of a gracious king who forgave the extravagant debt of a servant, yet the servant was ungraciously unwilling to forgive another man of a meager amount. Because of the servant’s greed, the king rescinded his grace and cast the wicked fool into prison. God is the king, and the selfish servant could be us, and the lesson is, “so also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
Earlier, Jesus explained how to forgive. “If your brother sins against you” (Matthew 18:15), go to him and seek reconciliation. If that does not work, take someone with you. If that does not work, take it to the church. Keep trying. Now we are back to that cherished verse, right in the middle, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20), but with a better idea of what it means. Jesus is so interested in the good relationships of his children, in reconciliation and forgiveness and love, that when two or three of us get together to work out an offense, Jesus says, “I am here to help. I am with you. I am all about this!”
Father in Heaven, forgive me my sins as I forgive others theirs. That is a dangerous thing to pray because I am not very good at forgiving. But You are teaching me. I know I have sinned against You. A lot. You not only have forgiven me, You paid the penalty for my sins. The more I understand Your love, Your grace, Your mercy, the better I share it with others.
Thank You, Jesus. For dying on the cross to free me, not only of the penalty of my own sins, but of the ugliness of bitterness I carry against the sins of others.