Forgiveness. We love to experience it. We aren’t wild about doing it. But Jesus’ instructions and the message from Jesus’ parable set forth in Matthew 21-35 are clear: we must. Read it.
It all started when Peter asked if there was some limit on the number of times we must forgive someone. Peter captured exactly how we feel. “Okay, so we must forgive each other. But isn’t there some limit? I mean, c’mon…”
The parable tells of a king who forgives the gigantic debt of one of his servants but then the servant fails to forgive a minor debt owed to him. It’s a twist on “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” – “do unto others as God has done for you.”
The takeaways and lessons are many.
· God has given us everything. We cannot possibly repay that generosity.
· We must acknowledge that we are indebted to God.
· God isn’t just patient with us on our indebtedness but so gracious to wipe our slates clean. This is something that we do not deserve and haven’t earned.
· Why would we be angry with someone who owes us something? That doesn’t affect anyone but us.
· Others notice how we treat each other.
· While God forgives, we don’t get a blanket forgiveness and then can go on about our evil ways.
· God is a god of justice.
· Thank God for Jesus and our ability to be forgiven even when we don’t deserve it.
The two servant characters in the parable are much different than we are today – they both acknowledged their debt. We aren’t quick to do so. We are terrific at excusing our performance or obligations or blaming our failures on others. That isn’t even an issue in the parable. That, too, might be a big lesson.
How often do we ask for forgiveness? How often do we say, “I’m sorry” and mean it? How often do we even acknowledge when we’ve wronged someone? These are tough lessons. And it seems that we are less likely to do so these days than we might have in the past. Perhaps it is a symptom of our self-centeredness, self-importance, or self-focus?
We can also expand the theme to other even more challenging topics. How good are we at forgiving ourselves? What about forgiving God? The reality is that God doesn’t need forgiving. But an equally true reality is that we carry resentment toward God for things that aren’t God’s fault. Releasing those feelings are the equivalent of forgiving, from our perspective.