Read Matthew 18:21-35
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus 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. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since 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"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27The 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 denarii. 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 you back.' 30"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed 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. 33Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34In anger his master turned 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 from your heart." (NIV)
When we read this passage, it can seem so harsh. Jesus seems to be saying that if we do not forgive others, then we will not be forgiven ourselves. The parable is very clearly pointing to this. Now, one of the things that we need to remember in reading a parable is that almost all parables have an exaggeration in them. One of the characteristics of rabbinical teaching was hyperbole. When we see the exaggeration, we see the point in a parable.
But forgiveness is a huge part of our faith. It speaks to what God has done for us and what we are to do with others. Forgiveness is one of the few things that Scripture seems to put a check and balance on. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray and gave what we now call the Lord’s Prayer, the petition on forgiveness is to ask God to forgive us as we forgive others.
Forgiveness is a huge part of any society. For a congregation to be at its best, the members of the congregation must be willing and ready to forgive one another. In our culture today, we see the opposite effect being played out. For the last few years, there has been a movement afoot to cancel anyone who has done any kind of wrong from the past. Present behavior demonstrating repentance and change has not mattered. The pain and suffering being caused by an unforgiving society is making things worse, not better.
God knows the importance of forgiveness which leads to reconciliation. And reconciliation is the ultimate goal of God. It is truly why Jesus Christ came to earth, to reconcile us back to God through forgiveness. The cross represents that forgiveness in that Christ took all our wrongs unto himself and took our punishment so that we might find grace and thus, be reconciled back to God.
So, we are to live as forgiven people meaning that we know we have been forgiven and we forgive others who have harmed us. We are to be people who ask for forgiveness. We are people who do not take God’s forgiveness of us lightly. We were forgiven at a great cost.
Stanley Hauerwas taught that discipleship is a craft and that forgiveness is one of the most important parts of the craft of Christian discipleship. Do you see discipleship as a craft, something that must be learned and honed as we journey in life? Do you see forgiveness as a part of breaking down barriers between people? Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness from?
A final note that is important. We must remember that when we stand before God, our points of unforgiveness will not keep us out of heaven. But God will deal with those points of unforgiveness at that time. Do you want to stand before God and answer why you did not forgive? God wants us forgive because that is who he is. God wants us to reconcile with one another as he is reconciling us back to him.
Live as forgiven people.
Blessings and Peace