Forgiving 77 times....
“Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?"
“Jesus said to him, "I don't tell you until seven times, but, until seventy seven times. Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!' The lord of that servant, being 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 one hundred denarii, and he grabbed 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 repay you!' He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him in, and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?' His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don't each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds." Matthew 18:21–35
A scary parable. But first, some perspective: 10,000 talents was owed to the ruler. That amount to be about 200,000 years' wages. It’s a big number—in the neighborhood of $10,000,000,000. The servant was hopelessly in debt. So this servant must have been some sort of governor for the “lord” or “ruler"—there’s no other way he could have run up such a tab!
There is no place in the Bible where someone is debt is placed in debt to pay for debts. But the crowd understood this analogy, because under Roman law there is a detailed set of laws in this regard. A debtor who could not pay could be taken to court and put in chains and forced to work off the debt through servitude. Also it states that others can come and pay the debt on their behalf, thus releasing them from prison. A debt that cannot be paid resulted in slavery to the creditor or sale on the slave market.
Surely you see the point here. We owe God a lot more than we can ever pay. The debt we carry is “sin”, that is, not being the people He created us to be. We’ve all sinned and come up short. Our good deeds and confession of sin falls far short of the total debt. It’s pretty hopeless. Micah 6:8 states that, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Ok, there it. Do you—all the time follow these simple demands from your Creator? If you don’t, you’ve violated your obligations to Him—just like those that offend you have violated their obligations to you!
The penalty, or payment for sin, in death and eternal separation from God and the great things He prepared for us before we were even born! What a loss and what a pitiful situation we are in! I have a debt owed to God that I simply cannot pay no matter how many lives I could live! I cannot redeem myself—and that’s the rub for some people. I have no other option than to humble myself and beg for His mercy—-that’s a person approaches a holy God. And there are many people that simply refuse to humble themselves and be helped.
So this ruler, for no other reason than compassion(!), forgives this man of billions in debt. Can you imagine the joy of having that load removed from your ledger? Debt will suffocate you! So to walk away from ten billion in debt, to be totally debt free, must have been an incredibly intoxicating sensation! Walking on air!!!
I remind you that the ruler forgave the man because of his compassion on the servant. But someone was $10,000,000,000 poorer—it was the ruler. He turned his back on a fortune because of his love for that little servant. Jesus died on the cross because of God’s compassion for you and me. I don’t know why He loves us, but He does. The debt of all our sins have been forgiven because Jesus paid the debt. Someone had to take the loss for our sins…. and it was Jesus that agreed to do it and make things right.
But notice what happened after the incredible generosity of the ruler. The servant found a fellow servant that owed him about $20 and demanded immediate payment. This fellow servant was just as sorry and apologetic as the one that was just forgiven, but the forgiven servant had no compassion on his friend. He had the man thrown into jail for $20! Doesn’t it make you angry that this man was so unflinching and unkind? I hope that unkindness makes you sick to your stomach, especially if the one being unkind is a servant that’s been forgiven of a huge debt—-and that, of course, is what you and I are—-as are all Christians. We’ve had our debts obliterated forever by the blood of Jesus! But are we allowing small debts owed to us, along with insults or disagreements to justify our indifference, or rage and meanness to other people? It should make you and me sick to our stomachs to see fellow Christians, or ourselves(!) behave like this!
C.S. Lewis said, “Forgiveness is a beautiful word, until you have something to forgive!”
When the ruler found out that his servant had not shown forgiveness, he was furious. The Greek translations suggests "was wroth" or “was very angry". The Syriac text reads that the Ruler "burned with anger". Again, the people listening to Jesus were living under Roman civil law. When they got into debt, sometimes they were delivered by their creditors to tormentors, who put them in prison, and tortured them. The Emperor Constantine the Great, from Christian kindness, ended the punishment of scourging debtors.
Now listen: Jesus says that this is how His Father will treat us if we receive forgiveness, but don’t show it to others. The early church believed that in this case the tormentors will be demons, who torment the souls of the damned in hell until they should pay—which of course means that they must be tormented forever, because they could never pay the full debt.
Jesus ended the parable with a warning…” unless you forgive from your hearts”. Jesus knew the hearts of all men—-and He knows your heart and mine today. Outward forgiveness is just as useless as demanding that a child say, “I am sorry”, when the child has zero remorse. No, forgiveness has no value or merit in God’s eyes, unless it comes from the “heart”.
What if don’t forgive like this—-i.e., with the heart? We risk being refused forgiveness by God. Similarly James wrote, "For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy" (James 2:13). Now think about that and let it sink in. Do you forgive from your heart or are you still holding a grudge? “From the heart” = “with love and compassion”.
Think about the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us of our sins as we forgive those that sin against us….” How do you want God to treat you after He’s forgiven your sins?
There’s no denying it. We have to forgive others if we want forgiveness. Jesus was crystal clear: “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15)
So why in heaven’s name don’t some of us forgive and why are all of us tempted to hold onto the bad things that other’s have done to us. Why not forgive!? George Herbert was right when he wrote, “He who cannot forgive others, burns the bridge over which he must pass himself.” It will ruin your life if you hold onto hate, revenge and despise another person.
I am sure that each of you have your reasons for not forgiving someone. Sometimes it makes me feel superior, or to have an advantage over someone if I don’t forgive them. Withholding forgiveness make you think that you now have the power to make your offender feel inferior to you and and uncomfortable around you. And for some folks, that’s a good feeling. Not