The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
The word “forgive” means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt.
Which brings us to this morning reading of Mat 18:21-35 The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant:
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Sir, how often should I forgive a brother who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!
23 “The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date.
24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him 10,000 talents.”
(Jesus uses an astronomical figure here to make his point. It equates to approximately 150 years of wages. Something that would be impossible for anyone to payback. The significance is that what we owe God cannot be measured and it is by His divine mercy only that we are offered salvation).
25 He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt, also his wife and children and everything he had.
26 “But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, ‘Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.’
27 “Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him a hundred silver coins and grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. (A hundred silver coins is equivalent to 100 days wages.).
29 “The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. ‘Be patient and I will pay it,’ he pled.
30 “But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full.
31 “Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened.
32 And the king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, ‘you evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to—
33 shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?’
34 “Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every last penny due. 35 So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers.”
It is difficult to forgive when we or someone close to us has been betrayed or deeply hurt. Very often we justify our action of not forgiving someone by painting a picture of that person as no good. A person that can’t be trusted. A trouble maker. A loser not fit for society.
Even if that picture happens to be true we forget the words of Jesus in Luke 6:37:
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Sometimes we think its okay to say, 'Well, I chose to forgive him, but I choose not to associate with him.'
We delude ourselves into thinking that we have fulfilled the word of God when we forgive in this way. But the truth is that we have only made it seem to others that we have behaved Christ like. On the surface we may have even fooled ourselves into thinking this is acceptable. But if we take the time to look deep down inside our mind and heart, we know that we have not fooled God. We still have anger in our heart. We still have hate in our heart.
You haven’t really forgiven someone if every time you here that person’s name you relive the transgression and the hurt that they caused. And our anger resurfaces and our hate rekindles.
IJohn 4: 20-21 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
When we forgive others, it is really for our benefit more than for those who caused the offence. By forgiving others, we free ourselves physically, spiritually and emotionally. Forgiveness is a personal act of will in obedience and submission to God’s will, trusting God to bring emotional healing.
When God forgives, it is True forgiveness. Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
Notice here, it is not for our sake that God forgives us but for His own sake.
Jesus understood this type of forgiveness. He understood the importance of letting go of his anger, letting go of his pride and truly forgiving. That is what he did for us that day so long ago when he was mocked and laughed at. Spit upon. When he was bruised and battered. Nailed to a wooden cross to endure a slow and painful death. But as he hung there on the verge of death, he begged his "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He expects us to do the same. Surely, when Jesus was on the cross, we were on his mind.
We too make mistakes in life and need others to forgive us. As we forgive others it helps remove any negative ideas that may be held against us, thus recreating a harmonious flow between ourselves and others.
In Matthew 6:14,15 Jesus reminds us that forgiveness is not one-sided: "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
We can’t expect our Father to forgive us if we don't forgive those who offend us (v. 12)?
Forgiveness is an ongoing process. Meaning, it must go on forever. We can't forgive today and then forget about forgiving tomorrow. Jesus told Peter to forgive as many as seventy times seven, essentially forever. Whether or not the person you forgive understands who you are or why you did it, is of no concern. Love him and release him. God brings truth to people's minds in His own time ⎯ just like He does for you and me.
It's not who hurts us or what happens to us, but how we react to that hurt that ensnares us, taking away our peace and freedom. Once we have totally forgiven, we feel the connection of a clean, or purified, heart between ourselves and others.
The importance of forgiving is enforced by Jesus in Matthew 6: 9-13. Jesus tells his disciples and us "Pray like this”:
9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
In verse 9 Jesus tells us to “Pray like this” Then in verses 14–15 he explains why he taught us to pray this way: "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Mark 11: 23-24 Jesus tells his disciples how powerful prayer is if they have faith in God:
23 “Truly[f] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
But he also adds this in verse 25;
25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
People who have experienced abuse, trauma, or loss need time to sort things out and let God bring them to the place of forgiveness, in His time. God’s timing is always the right time for each individual.
The act of forgiving others is between us and God. The only time we need to forgive a person face-to-face is at the moment we are asked by that person to forgive them for the hurt they have caused.
In conclusion, I want to tell you of a person who was the trigger for this exhortation. Her name was Cornelia "Corrie" Ten Boom (15 April 1892 – 15 April 1983) She was a Dutch watchmaker and she was also a Christian, who along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, describes the ordeal.
On February 28, 1944, a Dutch informant named Jan Vogel told the Nazis about her,
and her family helping the Jews; at around 12:30PM that day, the Nazis arrested her whole family. Corrie and her sister Betsie ended up in Ravensbrück concentration camp, a women's labor camp in Germany.
We’re all familiar with the horror stories of the German concentration camps. The cruelty. The indignities. The killings.
Her sister Betsie didn’t make it out of Ravensbruck.
After the war, Corrie returned to the Netherlands to set up a rehabilitation center. The refugee houses consisted of concentration-camp survivors and even sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the Occupation. She returned to Germany in 1946, and traveled the world as a public speaker, appearing in more than 60 countries. She wrote many books during this time. In one of those books she wrote:
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.
He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Of all the scriptures I’ve read of what God puts up with from us his creation, yet He still forgives us just because we ask.
Or how many times I’ve read what Jesus endured on our behalf and he still asked his Father to “Please forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
It took my reading of what happened to Corrie Ten Boom, to finally realize what true forgiveness is.
When Kitty would be upset about something, I would say to her “Don’t feel that way”.
Her automatic response would be “Don’t tell me how to feel”
True forgiveness is a “feeling”. It can’t be taught, it has to be felt.
God gave us free will, but He truly directs our path in life and leads us to where we are supposed to be to find understanding of His wisdom.