Study Guide: The Porcupine Dance

Sunday July 27, 2008 | Annie Perdue-Olson

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Forgiveness is always easier to talk about than to actually do. But without it we are alone and isolated, and can be consumed by hurt. Jesus taught about how we should forgive each other through parables: because we experience God’s great forgiveness, we share the same with others who have wronged us. And as a result, we learn how to live our lives with each other and experience the freedom that God wants for us.

Extended Summary:

This passage is set within the larger context of Matthew 18 which focuses on the relational nature of being a part of God’s Kingdom. This parable speaks to specific application of how we relate to others as Kingdom participants, that is the need for forgiveness.

To understand what Jesus was saying in this parable, some background information is helpful. First, when Peter asked if he should forgive seven times, he thought this to be going above and beyond the call of duty. The typical expectation was to forgive three times. Instead Jesus says that one should forgive 70 times 7, meaning an infinite number of times and therefore one should not even track how much he forgives. The first debtor was required to repay a total amount of 200,000 days’ wages or 3 billion dollars in today’s value. The point Jesus was making was that it was impossible for this person to repay it. Instead of demanding the debt, the king forgave it and released him of this 3 billion dollar IOU.

But the second debtor owed a much smaller amount of three months wages. But the first debtor
would not release the second debtor in the same way that the king had done so in his mercy.
Receiving forgiveness from the King of Kings for the insurmountable debt we have racked up and then offering this forgiveness to others who have hurt us is central to Kingdom living. We are called to forgive other’s debts just as we have been forgiven. However, this is a huge struggle for us. There is a part within us that wants to hold people to their debts because of the pain and trouble they have caused. We want justice instead of mercy. Instead of offering forgiveness we want to hold grudges. It is like a porcupine dance. In the cold, porcupines, who usually are quite isolated from one another, huddle together to keep warm. But when they get
close they start jabbing each other with their spines. This forces them to move apart because it hurts – then they are cold & alone. So, they come together again to stay warm. They move together and apart in a kind of slow dance. Isolation into community is like the porcupines coming together to be warm instead of cold and isolated. When we come together, we will hurt one another, but through forgiveness we will be able to live a life of community and friendship with one another.

Reflection Questions:

1. What is Jesus saying in this passage about the number of times we should forgive?
2. When you hear the word “forgive” what immediately comes to mind?
3. How should the experience of receiving forgiveness from God shape how we respond to others when they hurt us?
4. What is the difference between forgiveness and letting someone take advantage of you?
5. How has unforgiveness hindered you from participating in relationships?
6. When you are hurt by another, how easily does forgiveness come to you?