MORE THAN FORGIVENESS
Lord, teach me not to hold grudges.
Read MATTHEW 18:21–35
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 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.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What has been (or is) the most difficult situation you have been in, requiring you to forgive?
We believe that Jesus’ twelve disciples have lived in a communal existence 24/7 for three years. Perhaps it has been like a three-year camping holiday with a group of twelve. Continually being with the same people is never easy. We know there have been arguments and competition, so Peter’s question about forgiveness is not unusual. Jesus’ answer far exceeds what the rabbis taught about forgiving someone three times: preceding the parable that follows, Jesus tells us that our forgiveness must be limitless. Repentance and reconciliation are not prerequisites in order for us to forgive: we forgive because God has already forgiven us an immeasurable debt.
These days we are more aware of physical and psychological abuse, unfaithfulness in marriage, bullying in schools and in the workplace, and many other situations where hurt and injury occur. Jesus calls the victim to the immensely difficult task of forgiving, even if the perpetrator is not repentant. Forgiveness then brings freedom to move on with life. However, along with Jesus’ call to forgive, there is the responsibility of the Christian family and the immediate community to provide protection and care so that some intolerable situation does not continue. Forgiveness is not a license to endure harmful behavior—the offender will face his Maker one day.
The psalmist calls the people of God to “give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psa. 82:3,4, NRSV). The faith community must not stand by and tolerate abuse. Victims need to forgive, but the church needs to maintain what’s right in every situation. Both victim and abuser are loved by the Shepherd who wants all to remain safe within his fold.
Is there someone in your family, church or community who has suffered harm? How might you offer them practical love, protection and care, or encouragement to forgive?
Lord, we forgive much because we have been forgiven much. Keep our hearts free from unforgiveness.