FREE TO FORGIVE
Peter came to Jesus with a question. “How many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” In reply, Jesus told a story about a king who called his servants to account for the debt they owed him (Matthew 18:21-35).
One servant owed the king so much money that he would be never able to repay him, no matter how long he lived. The king ordered that the servant and his wife and children be sold as slaves to pay the debt.
The servant fell on his knees and begged for time, promising that he would repay the whole debt if the king would be patient with him. The king took pity on the servant, cancelled the debt and let him go.
The same servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded payment immediately. When his fellow servant pleaded for time, he refused. He had him thrown in jail until he could repay the debt.
The other servants saw what he did and reported his disgraceful behaviour to the king. The king immediately recalled the servant, reinstated the debt and threw him in jail to be tortured until he paid what he owed the king.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35.
To whom was Jesus speaking? Not to the religious leaders or to unbelievers. He was taking to Peter and the rest of His disciples.
Why did the unforgiving servant act so cruelly to his fellow servant who owed him little compared to the debt he owed the king? He did not understand or value the mercy shown to him by the king. Because he failed to show mercy, his debt was reinstated and he was required to pay the full amount or remain in jail for the rest of his life.
God the Father will not forgive those of His children who refuse to forgive because He shows mercy to those who show mercy.
“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7.
When we cancel the debt of the person who has sinned against us, we use the key that opens the door of our own prison to bitterness and hatred. When we refuse to forgive, we imprison ourselves, not the person who had offended us, and we stay in that prison until we release them from their debt.
Forgiveness is not about our feelings. We forgive because we may and only when we have forgiven another person’s debt, will we experience God’s peace. Then the pain of the experience will vanish.
Forgiveness is not about whether the other person deserves it or not. What did we do to deserve God’s forgiveness? Nothing! Yet He freely forgives us, over and over again because Jesus paid our debt in full.
We cannot withhold forgiveness in case the offender does it again. They probably will, just as we sin against God over and over again. Every time they sin, we forgive just as God forgives us.
Peter did not understand that forgiveness was not about how many times he forgave his brother for the same sin. It was about being permitted to forgive his brother because God has forgiven him. It was BECAUSE OF GOD’S MERCY that he could cancel his brother’s debt over and over again and set himself free from his prison of anger, bitterness and hatred.
We will never realise the privilege we have of forgiving those who offend us until we understand the greatness of God’s mercy towards us. We owed God an unpayable debt. He knew that we would never be able to repay it. He had compassion on us and sent His own son to pay the debt for us. He cancelled our debt and let us go.
How can we ever refuse to forgive the person who sinned against us when God showed us how great is His mercy to us?
BECAUSE OF GOD’S MERCY, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13, 14.