“...You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Matthew 18:32-33
Put two or more people together and eventually someone is going to get hurt or offended. That is inevitable because none of us behave the way we should at all times. Furthermore, all of us have real care and love for certain others, and thus care about what they say and what they do; when these particular people do or say something that we do not approve of, it is easier for us to get hurt or offended by them than the words and actions of those whom we don’t know or care about.
Even though it is inevitable that hurt and offended feelings will come, we must realize that what is not inevitable is the breaking down of relationships because of those offenses and hurts. If people are going to get along, something has got to give. Since all people, including all people in the church, are flawed, Christians must give to one another forbearance and forgiveness.
Forbearance is the putting up with the wrongs of another for a season with a view toward repentance. The person we forebear is not what he or she should be yet, but we forebear with a view toward their maturing. Forgiveness is releasing a person from their sin. The sin is no longer an obstacle in the relationship because it has been taken out of the way. This helps us to see that if we continue to bring up a past wrong that we claim we forgave, we’re not being truthful. You see, had we truly forgiven the sin, we would leave it alone.
The Bible teaches us that if we are going to be right with God we must forgive others. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells his disciples the parable of a man who owed a debt to his master that he simply could not pay. The Bible says it was “ten thousand talents.” A “talent” in those days was not a skill that one had either acquired or held naturally; rather, it was a rather huge denomination of money. Some recent estimates suggest that ten thousand talents equates to a dollar value of $12 million; but with inflation and fluctuating metal prices, this could be over a billion dollars in today’s currency.
So we see how helpless a situation the man was in. He’s doomed. So what do you do when you have nothing to offer? You beg for patience. And the merciful master in the story didn’t just agree to give him more time – he forgave him. The man asked for forbearance and he got forgiveness. Surely this kindness shown to him would change the way he dealt with others, right? Not so. This same servant found a fellow servant who owed him what comparatively was a very small sum. Instead of forgiving him as he had been forgiven, the servant was violent with him and threw him into prison until he could pay the debt (Matthew 18:28-30).
The sad truth is that the heart of some is unchanged by the mercy of God. They don’t seem to get it that God didn’t forgive them just to get them out of trouble. He forgave them to change them. We need to remember that no one owes us nearly what we owe God, regardless of what they have done. Christians who seem to be the perpetual “walking wounded” need to grow up and act like men and women of God. If they don’t they are going to find themselves ultimately on the outside looking in when it comes to God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The forgiving master was not so forgiving when he found out about the lack of mercy shown by the servant. He ended up throwing the man into prison, and then Jesus finished with this point: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:32-35).
If we want to be forgiven by God, we must forgive. Plain and simple.