Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So, the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So, his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also, my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” -Matthew 18:21-35 ESV
Jesus taught us how important it is to forgive. He desires us to respond to others out of love, compassion, and mercy. When we do, we can let go of our fears, self-judgments and freely share love and mercy to others. Jesus explains to the disciples how to deal with those who have caused an offense with them starting from just talking to them about the issue to the point of taking it to the elders or to the courts. It is after this teaching that Peter poses the question to Jesus about how many times should he forgive others.
Jesus answers Peter and tells him it’s not just seven times, but seven times seventy! Jesus wanted Peter to understand we are to keep forgiving even when we don’t really want to. By the time we have forgiven over and over again, it will become second nature to us. I don’t know about you, but I struggle at times with patience towards those who consistently hurt me. Patience is key to love and forgiveness
Jesus explains why we should forgive by sharing a parable. A king wanted to settle his accounts and he had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents equalling about several million pounds. In Roman times, one talent would equal a day’s wages about £40 per common laborer. The king ordered that the servant and his wife and children plus all that he had was to be sold in order to pay off the debt. The servant, of course, bowed before the king and asked for patience for him to be able to pay back all the money. The king had compassion and mercy and set the servant free.
As the servant in this story was indebted to the king, we too are to our God. We deserve punishment for our sin, however, as the king in the story pardoned the servant, so too our God pardons us when we ask for forgiveness. Jesus took all of our sin, sickness, pain and paid our debts on the cross of Calvary. It is through the blood of Jesus that all of us are set free. Jesus forgave us, washed away our sins. God says in Isaiah 1:18-20, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice so we would not have to. What an awesome God we serve!
You’d think that the servant here would be very grateful for canceled debt. However, the opposite is true. The servant’s servant only owed a hundred denarii which equal about £5000 today. Five thousand pounds compared to several million is only pocket change, yet the servant was harsh with his fellow servant and demanded that he pay back the money. Even when the man begged for patience, the servant refused and sent him to prison until the debt was paid off. Jesus wanted His disciples to understand no matter how big or small the debt or action is, we should be willing to forgive and not hold it over someone. The king pardoned the servant and yet the servant didn’t appreciate the patience and love.
Other servants watched and listened in horror to the one who did not have patience. They went back and told the King what had happened because they were greatly distressed. People are always watching us in how we deal with others, especially with different ethnic groups, religions, and cultures merging into one. If we are critical all the time about people and complain about how things are, we are being very much like the servant who turned on his servant.
God wants us to forgive others. The consequences are great if we do not. The king/master called in the servant. Because of the servant’s actions, he was thrown into prison to be tortured until the debt was paid off. Jesus tells us that this is how God will treat us if we don’t forgive others from the heart. Those are very harsh words which are not easy to swallow. When we don’t forgive others and are very critical or bitter, our fellowship with God is hindered and we end up separating ourselves from Him. I believe it is like a slap in God’s face when we harbor ill feelings towards others and don’t forgive especially after all He has done for us.
Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.” Can God actually revoke a pardon once given? Jesus says here, yes He can and He will if we don’t forgive and are critical towards others. Forgiveness is so important to God that Jesus even teaches us at the end of the Lord’s prayer to forgive others as God forgave us. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15. Although it is hard to hear these words, they cannot be ignored or avoided. Forgiveness is not given as part of a legal matter, but of grace. If God has done so much for us, how can we not share that love with others? The Gospel of Jesus is one of forgiveness and love. God is a forgiving God but He is also just. It is expected of us as Christians, that have received God’s forgiveness to show God’s character and a forgiving attitude towards others.
These words have convicted me. How many times have I been judgmental or critical of others? It is so easy for us to fall into the gossip trap complaining about others. How would remembering what God has done for us help us to forgive others?
I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be left out of the Kingdom of God because of an unforgiving, critical spirit.