This past summer, Dr. Judith Oleson, associate professor of sociology and social work and coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies Minor, had an opportunity to stay in the old Jewish quarters of Krakow, Poland. She then visited the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, where nearly the entire Jewish population of Europe was extinguished. As a result, the Holocaust became more real to Oleson, as did the need to explore the the importance of forgiveness in her work on reconciliation studies. She has also been studying Rwandan reconciliation efforts after the genocide; Oleson referred to both in a chapel talk she gave to Gordon students Monday, October 31. Below is the text of her talk.
“The Kingdom is Like Those Who Can Forgive, Because They Have Been Forgiven”—Based on Matthew 18: 23- 35
By Judith Oleson
The kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle his accounts with his servants. Jesus tells this parable with great detail. It is quite dramatic. The servant owes a lot of money (10,000 bags of gold in fact) to the king. He cannot pay up, so he, his wife and children and all he had will be sold. The servant falls on his knees and begs, “Be patient with me” and makes a promise “I will pay back everything.” The king takes pity on him and cancels the entire debt. This is amazing, who would cancel a debt of 10.0000 bags of gold? But we know the story does not end here – the servant goes out and finds a fellow servant, one of his peers who owed him only 100 silver coins. He grabs him, chokes him and demands payment. When the fellow servant says be patient with me, and I will pay it back, the first servant refuses to be patient, and has him thrown in prison until he could pay back the debt. Then this is the best part I think – “when the other servants saw what happened they were outraged, and whet back and told the king all that had happened.
Now there is a lot of outrage today about debt. The Tea party has been outraged about government debt, congress is outraged that the banks have been forgiven their debt, but did not pass on their savings to consumers, the occupy wall street is movement is outraged that the 99 percent is indebted to the 1 percent. Our economy in the U.S. has been based on spending, credit, and more credit. As a country that has ignored our personal and collective debt for years, we are starting to wake up. We see the destruction of the abuses of our economic system and we are outraged. But what is this relationship between debt, forgiveness and the kingdom of heaven? Continue reading