Forgiveness is probably one of the issues that we as believers struggle with the most and yet it is also an important part of our walk with the Lord. We know that unforgiveness hinders our fellowship with the Lord and fouls up relationships, but our anger and hurt makes it difficult to let go of offences.
Jesus told a story which gives us an insight into what forgiveness is all about. It is a simple, step-by step process to handle our conflicts. The parable is recorded in Matthew 18:21-35.
A king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Step one in the process of forgiveness is to take stock of the debt we are owed. Someone has caused us hurt or offence and we must know what it is.
One of the servants owed the king a large sum of money. The king had the right to demand payment even though the debt was too big for the servant to repay. His solution was to sell the debtor, his family and his possessions to recoup what was owed. We have the right to expect payment of the debt owed to us.
The servant, although he knew he could never repay such a large amount, pleaded for mercy and promised to pay. Here is the turning point in the story. The king took pity on him, cancelled the debt and set him free. When we recognise that the one who has hurt us can never repay the debt, (what can anyone do to make up for the pain they have caused us?) we have one of two options. We can continue to hold his debt against him and punish him by our refusal to forgive, or we can cancel the debt and let him go free. It is the compassion we feel towards our debtor when we realize that he cannot pay that will enable us to forgive the debt and release them. Forgiveness is about cancelling the debt, not forgiving the debtor.
Our attitude is often mirrored in the attitude the servant showed towards his fellow servant. He found one who owed him a small amount, grabbed him by the throat and demanded payment. He did what the king did not do – he had the debtor thrown in prison until he could pay. When the king found out, he was angry. This is what God feels about us when we refuse to forgive. Do we want to live our lives with our hands around the throat of everyone who has hurt or offended us?
The key is simple, “Why do you demand payment from someone whose debt has already been paid?” If we refuse to let go of his throat, we are demanding payment for a debt that has already been paid by Jesus, one-for-all, in full. But we must make the choice.
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