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Matthew  ◦   Chapter 18

1 The disciples then asked Jesus, "In heaven's system, what constitutes true greatness?"

2 Jesus called over a small child3 and said, "Let me make it as clear as I can: Unless you become lovers of truth, teachable like a child, you will never leave the errors of this world and become part of heaven's kingdom of truth and love.4 Therefore it is those who humble themselves and become teachable and responsive to love and truth who will be transformed and great in heaven's kingdom.

5 "And anyone who welcomes those who have childlike trust in my character — protecting, nurturing and leading them in truth — receives me into their heart.6 But it is better to drown in the sea with a heavy stone tied around one's neck than to lead a person with childlike trust to deviate from God's design for life.

7 "Horrible suffering is upon the world because of that which leads people to deviate from God's design for life! Such deviations will happen, but sorrow and pain will be the portion for those who promote it.8If you use your hands or feet to participate in activities that destroy your mind, sear your conscience and warp your character, then discard the hand or foot. It is better to have a sound mind with Christlike character and enter life as an amputee than to have both hands and two feet — but a seared conscience and a warped character — and enter into eternal fire.9 And if your eye looks at things that destroy your mind, sear your conscience and warp your character, then lose the eye. It is better to have a sound mind with Christlike character and enter life with one eye than to have both eyes — but a seared conscience and a warped character — and be consumed with overwhelming guilt and shame in the fiery lake of unveiled truth and love.

10 "Be certain you don't disregard or belittle one of these small children. I am telling you straight, their guardian angels always meet face to face with my Father in heaven.11 The Son of Man came to find and heal that which is deviant from God's design for life.

12 "Think of it this way: If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, won’t he leave the ninety-nine that are safe, and go to look for the one that is lost?13 And if he finds the one lost sheep–I tell you the simple truth–he rejoices more over that one sheep than over the ninety-nine that were never lost.14 This is how it is with our Father in heaven: He doesn't want to lose even one of these little ones.

15 "If someone who has partaken of the Remedy deviates from God's design and wrongs you, causing a fracture in the unity of your relationship, go to them — one on one — and privately show them their fault. If they comprehend, you have won a friend.16 But if they refuse to listen, then take one or two others — who have partaken of the Remedy — to reach out to your friend so that your concern for that person can be validated by two or three others.17 If your friend refuses to listen to them, bring your concern to the church; and if they refuse the loving direction of the church, then they have hardened their heart to you and are no more your friend than a pagan or tax collector.

18 "I tell you the plain reality of God's kingdom: Whatever you tie your heart to on earth, you will be tied to in eternity; and whatever you let go from on earth, you will be free of in eternity.

19 "So understand that if two of you here on earth come into agreement on something and ask for the blessing of my Father in heaven, he will honor your choice.20 For wherever two or three with hearts renewed with my character of love unite together, I am there with them."

21 Peter then spoke up and asked Jesus, "Master, how many times must I forgive my friend who wrongs me? Is seven times sufficient?"

22 Jesus smiled and said, "I tell you the reality of God's kingdom: Forgive not just seven times, but perpetual sevens of never-ending forgiveness.

23 "Let me put it in terms you can understand: Consider God's kingdom to be like a king who wanted to settle all his servants' accounts.24 As he started, a man who owed one million dollars was brought before the king.25 The man was not able to pay, so the king ordered the man and his entire family to be sold into slavery to pay the debt.26 But the man fell on his knees before the king and begged for more time to repay the debt.27 The king had compassion on him, cancelled the entire debt, and let him go.

28 "But when the servant left the king, he found another servant, who owed him ten dollars. He pinned him against the wall and began choking him, demanding the ten dollars back.29 The man fell on his knees and begged him for more time to repay the debt;30 but he refused and called the authorities, and had the man locked in prison until the debt was paid.31 When others heard what had happened, they were very upset and told the king all about it.

32 "Then the king called the ungrateful man in and said, 'You hard-hearted servant! I cancelled your debt of one million dollars because you asked me to be merciful.33 Should you not have internalized this grace into your heart and shown mercy to your fellow servant for the pittance he owed you?'34 Angry that his mercy didn't transform his servant's heart, the king gave him over to the isolation and torment that a hard heart causes, until his debt of mercy was fully paid.35 Likewise, my Father in heaven is angry when your hearts are not transformed despite his mercy; for if you refuse to forgive each other from your heart, you demonstrate that you have not been healed. My Father will respect your choice and give you up to the agony of mind and torment of soul that unremedied sin brings."