Reflections on Forgiveness
Scripture reference: Matthew 18:21-35, Galatians 5:22-23
As we reflect on Resurrection Sunday, we must not forget to forgive others because Jesus died that we might be forgiven. The reminder to forgive others is imbedded within the messages of love, sacrifice, peace, joy, repentance, patience, and, I’d argue, every other overarching theme of the Bible. In order to get to the land where each of the fruits of the spirit abound, forgiveness is the vehicle through which we have to travel. How can you love someone whom you can’t forgive? How can you be patient with someone while holding their past wrongs against them? How can your mind be settled with peace when there’s a nagging feeling of a score that needs to be settled? What joy is there in stubbornly holding on to things that you should let go?
In the parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus gives us a clear illustration of how God our Father views unforgiveness. Jesus uses this parable to answer Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive his brother. We might remember Jesus’s famous reply of not just seven times he should forgive, but seventy times seven. Read Matthew 18:21-35.
We find numerous parallels to our lives in this passage of scripture. First, Jesus sets the context for the lesson as pertaining to people who are servants of God because “the king” is settling accounts with “his servants.” This passage of scripture does not pertain to people who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior. So, it is discouraging at best to look to the world for people outside of the ark of Christ to support your forgiving attitude and actions. This is true sometimes even within the body of Christ.
A second parallel is how we, like the servant, also owe a debt to God that we can’t pay. And, God knows, that even if we say we can or think we can with more time, we actually have no remedy to atone for sinning against Him apart from the grace He bestows upon us through Jesus’s sacrifice.
Third, after God forgives us of the sins we commit over and over and over again, far more than seventy times seven, we use our freedom to punish our debtors with unforgiveness just like the unmerciful servant. Whether the debts against us are monetary, like the silver in the parable, or moral, physical, or perhaps, transgressions that don’t even rise to the level of a classification, i.e. petty, we must figure out a way to forgive.
Someone said forgiveness means choosing not to punish people when you have a right to do so. The unmerciful servant could have chosen to forgive the debt of silver owed to him by his fellow servant but he chose to punish him in spite of the mercy he had been shown from the king. When we act like the unmerciful servant God is not pleased. As a matter of fact, Jesus tells us that God’s anger is kindled and we are at risk of being tortured until we are able to pay our debt to Him; which, we will never be able to do. That sounds like hell to me.
So, as we reflect on the Resurrection and remember the sacrifice Jesus made for all of humanity, whether they chose to accept His gift or not, let us also remember to forgive. When we are able to forgive others, we are also able to love and experience joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. With these things, the Lord is well pleased!