Forgiveness – The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18: 21-35:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ the servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owned.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness can be a difficult thing to do sometimes, but having to live with an unforgiving heart can be even more painful and demanding.

How do you respond when you are hurt or betrayed by someone? Whether being rudely cut off in traffic, secretly betrayed by a close friend, or abandoned by a parent, each of us will be confronted with the issue of forgiveness. How will you respond when you are faced with forgiveness? Will you allow hate and vindictiveness to take over or will you allow the compassion and forgiveness of Christ to flow through your words and your heart?

In our scripture reading, Jesus gives us the parable of the unmerciful servant. We find that God is very forgiving, but He also judges those who refuse to forgive.  In the parable, Jesus tells us that we are to forgive seventy-times-seven times – in other words –  without limit on our forgiveness. For Matthew, forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love. Those who have been forgiven ought to be able to forgive.

Remember the words of Jesus from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” In the midst of suffering and death, Christ asked for his Father to forgive those who were crucifying him. Why then is it so difficult for us to forgive others, especially over petty, insignificant things?

As Christians, the scriptures are clear, we are to forgive. There are not any special conditions that must be met in order to forgive. We simply must forgive, because we have been forgiven.

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