Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-22: 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.”
Peter, the disciple, comes to Jesus and asks a question about forgiveness. Peter may have thought that he already had in mind a good answer to his question on how many times we are to forgive someone. Peter answers his own question, “Up to seven times?” he said. We already know that Jesus is going to give Peter a different answer, which is that you should forgive someone who sins against you up to seventy-seven times – or unlimited forgiveness. Most of us probably don’t like this answer from Jesus, it make us feel uncomfortable.
The gospel writer Matthew then gives us the parable of the Unmerciful Servant, told by Jesus, as an illustration about forgiveness. Jesus tells the story of a king, who forgave a debt to one of his servants that was so large, that repayment was impossible. That servant then goes out from the presence of the king and meets a fellow servant. This fellow servant asks the servant who has just been forgiven, to be patient with him in repaying his debt. But the forgiven servant took no mercy upon his fellow servant and began to choke him and demand payment. The forgiven servant then has his fellow servant thrown into jail until he could repay the debt. This unmerciful servant had quickly forgotten that he was also forgiven.
Most of us also struggle with this teaching of Jesus to forgive. We hold onto grudges, in fact, many people enjoy holding grudges against other people. They feel that somehow they are making the other person “pay” for what they have done to them. If we are honest with ourselves we know that it is the person holding the grudge that is paying the price. Holding onto hurts and perceived ill will only leads to bitterness and feelings of resentment.
God forgives us if we confess our sin and our failings and ask for forgiveness. We are forgiven, even though our debt to God, through the work of Christ on the cross, is impossible to repay. And because we have been forgiven a great debt then we should forgive our fellow brothers and sisters when they do things to us that hurt us in some way. Many times we find that it is difficult to forgive, but as followers of Christ, it is essential that we start to live out forgiveness in our daily lives.
The unmerciful servant had been forgiven a debt that he could not possibly repay in his lifetime. He asked for mercy, he got down on his knees and he begged for mercy. And his request was granted, he was forgiven. And then, in a matter of moments, he forgot what mercy and forgiveness was like. This man could not forgive his fellow servant for a small debt.
God forgives us when we are contrite and sincere and He expects us, He commands us, to also forgive. God is forgiving, but He will also judge those of us that refuse to forgive one another. Learn to forgive and you will begin to live the life that God intended for you to live, loving one another.