A teaching that is relevant to teenagers in Matthew 18 has to do with the God that we worship. Teenagers worry about how their actions affect their relationship with Jesus Christ. They sometimes have the feeling that they are not worthy of His love.
Part of this stems from the way we deal with each other. If someone hurts us, because it is a natural response, we tend to distrust or even hate that individual. This serves the purpose of protecting us from future pain and suffering, but it also can cause us spiritual damage as we withhold our forgiveness. By doing this, we damage ourselves.
With this natural response in mind, the apostle Peter approached Jesus asking this question, “when can I stop forgiving those who cause me harm?” (Matthew 18:21) Essentially Peter was expressing the sentiment that in this world the good guys often finish last, therefore, when have I paid my dues to the point where I can stop forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it in the first place? Teenagers relate with this. They have all had someone slander them or otherwise cause them pain. Usually a teacher can get a good discussion going on this topic alone.
But Jesus isn’t about to answer Peter the way Peter expects. Peter gets the answer that he doesn’t really want. Jesus essentially tells Peter that we are never to stop forgiving. “Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22) At this point in the discussion I ask the students, “so does this mean that on the 491st offense that we are to stop forgiving that person?” They get the idea that Jesus isn’t talking about numbers. He is talking about perfect, total and complete forgiveness: always.
The point I made in class is that Jesus wouldn’t expect us to do something that He himself would not do. It is His nature to forgive. It is who He is. He is a 7 times 70 forgiving God.
As if to hit home his point even further, He gives the parable of the 10,000 talents (Matthew 18:23-35). Suffice it to say that for the king to forgive this kind of debt is incredible. 1 talent = the current price of gold per troy ounce X 12 (12 troy ounces in 1 pound) X 70 (70 pounds in a talent). We came up with an incredibly high figure for just one talent of gold: $1.4 million dollars. By this calculation, 10,000 talents puts this person in debt roughly $14 billion dollars! Even if he should pay $1,000 a day every day of his life, it would take over 3,800 years to pay back! The point really is that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite in power, coverage, depth, and love. There is nothing we can do to make the Atonement ineffectual in our lives if we humble ourselves, accept Him, and repent.
I believe this teaching will motivate young people to increase their desire to forgive one another and to repent. Jesus truly is a seven times seventy, ten thousand talent God.