Hello friends. I pray that all has been well with you since we last talked. In this blog, I want to talk about forgiveness and what it means to forgive. Is there someone in your life who has wronged you more than once? You keep forgiving them, and they keep wronging you. Well, in Matthew 18:21, Peter was probably thinking of someone like this when he asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
It is so easy to become frustrated with forgiving others, especially when it appears they are abusing your kindness. Nevertheless, God expects that we continue to forgive them. The only way you can truly forgive someone is to experience God’s love. God expressed His amazing love when He offered up His own Son as a sacrifice on the cross. His sacrifice redeemed us from death and paid the ultimate debt that you or I could never payed.
What It Means to Forgive
To forgive is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or misunderstanding, right? Not so fast! That is the way the carnal mind defines forgiveness. When we pardon someone, it does not necessarily mean that we stop feeling angry. Some say that we should forget the offense altogether. However, it does mean that we chose to release the offense and pardon the offender. To forgive is a conscious decision that has nothing to do with feelings.
Too often, we let our feelings get in the way of true forgiveness. Sure, it feels good to embrace our emotions of hurt. You know that “you’re going to pay for what you did to me” feeling. The only way to truly overlook, pardon, or otherwise excuse someone who has hurt you is to release them from the prison that you are keeping them in.
To effectively release them you must experience God’s love firsthand by entering into a personal relationship with Him. As an expression of God’s remarkable love, God offered up His Son as a sacrifice to redeem us from death. With Christ’s death, the sin debt was paid and we were forgiven. We receive that forgiveness by faith in the redemptive work of His Son.
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
“A certain king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed him ten thousand talents. When he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all his possessions, to pay his debt. The servant, therefore, fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything I owe.’ Then his master was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything I owe.’ And he would not have patience. Instead, he threw him into prison until his debt was paid. So when his fellow servants saw what he had done, they were very grieved, and went and told their master all that had been done.
“Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him (Matthew 18:23-34).”
Why We Could Not Pay the Debt
The servant whom the king pardoned owed ten thousand talents. In today’s money, a single denarii is the equivalent of one day’s work. One talent equals 6,000 denarii or 6,000 days’ wages. Assuming that one day’s wage is $100, it would take an ordinary laborer about 16 years to earn one talent, which equals $600,000. The servant in this parable owed his Master 10,000 talents. It would have taken him 160 years to pay his debt of 10,000 talents. No one lives that long. Although this servant owed an incredible debt that he could never repay, his Master showed compassion, and was merciful toward him, and forgave his debt.
We could never pay the debt we owe for sin. But Christ, being compassionate, paid our debt in full at the cross. Hence, the kingdom of heaven operates on the principle of forgiveness. It is God’s will that we live our lives based on this principle.
Why We Should Pardon Others
Because Jesus paid a debt that we could never pay, He expects that we forgive others as He forgave us. He expects that we are not like the ungrateful servant. After his master forgave him, he found a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii. A hundred denarii–100 days work–is about $10,000. He demanded that he pay him. And even though his fellow servant begged for mercy, he still threw him into prison and vowed to leave him there until he had paid all that he owed.
To forgive is a choice. There’s an old cliché that says, “what goes around comes around.” It’s another way of saying, “you reap what you sow.” The unforgiving servant had every opportunity to show mercy and compassion to his fellow servant, but he chose to be selfish. He chose to forget the mercy that was shown toward him for a much greater offense. Don’t hold someone captive to your own selfish pride. Before you harden your heart against someone else, think back over your life, and remember the many times that God forgave you when you didn’t deserve it.
Paid in Full
Imagine a man being beaten beyond recognition until his flesh is torn from his body. Having handfuls of hair snatched from his face and then be repeatedly punched in his face. For several years he had been telling people that he was a king, so they made a crown of 6-inch thorns and shoved them into his head. They continually struck him on his head and spat on him. In front of crowds of people, they stripped him of his robe and put a fabulous garment on him, and mocked him as a king (John 19:1-16). As if this cruel torture was not enough, they put a cross on his back and forced him to carry it up a hill where they would nail his hands and feet to the cross and hoist it high on top of the hill for all to see.
This must have been a horrible ordeal for him. The very same people whom he healed were shouting, “Crucify him!” This man was Jesus, and he endured all of this cruelty for you and me. You might be wondering, “Why did he do it?” Jesus endured this torture because he understood the true meaning of forgiveness. Even as he hung on the cross, he called out to His Father and asked that He forgive those who had done this to him (Luke 23:34). Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow. With his life, he demonstrated why you should forgive. The lesson he taught is simple: Forgive because you are forgiven.