Thursday, January 26, 2012


They were aghast at what they had observed. Their fellow slave had amassed a huge debt of 10,000 talents towards their master. The debt was so large that it would take 150,000 years of the wages of a laborer to pay off. It was an unheard of amount—hard to even comprehend. The master, wishing to settle accounts, brought the slave to himself and demanded payment. Since he had no means to repay, the master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and belongings, and that he repay.

Helpless to rectify his condition the slave fell to the ground and begged for the master to show patience towards him. In an incredible and unprecedented display of compassion the master forgave him the debt. The other slaves were astounded. What kind of master was this who would show such compassion!

But no sooner had the slave been forgiven, than he went to one of their fellow slaves who owed the man a debt. The debt was small by comparison. A mere one hundred denarii—an amount that could be earned in 100 days or so. The forgiven slave seized the man and began to choke him. He too begged for patience. But the forgiven slave showed no compassion and instead threw the slave into prison. The other slaves were “deeply grieved” and reported to the master what had happened.

Oh the incongruity of it all! An unpayable debt forgiven by a compassionate master. The forgiveness of a small debt withheld by a fellow slave. And so it goes.

The rabbis had taught that a repeated offense might be forgiven three times, but on the fourth there could be no forgiveness. Peter questioned Jesus regarding the extent to which forgiveness should be demonstrated—“Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Jesus’ response was not up to seven times, “but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). Jesus used a parable to illustrate the truth about forgiveness.

It is altogether human to want revenge. The Devil cheers us on in our anger, bitterness, and vengeance. He would have us to believe that some victory is won in retaliation. The flesh is eager to participate. The dreaded injustice is joined with vengeful thoughts into a turbulent concoction. It is simmered on the back burner of the brain and brought to a fervent boil. The wicked brew is drunk down and then vomited up, emitting a noxious odor.

Forgiveness is a God thing. Were there no God there would be no such things as forgiveness. To forgive is to release someone from liability to suffer punishment or penalty. It is to make a decision about an injustice suffered: to not think about it, to not bring it up, to not talk about it, to not allow it to stand between us and the other person. That kind of response is not always easy. It is by God’s grace and by the Spirit alone that we can lovingly respond in this manner (Cf. Galatians 5:20 vs. 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:5).

Seventy times seven. God has forgiven much. It is His nature to forgive (Cf. Psalm 103:8-11). My certificate of debt was of infinite measure (Colossians 2:14). He “cancelled it out” by nailing it to the cross. He who knew no sin was made to be sin that I might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). “And the transaction so quickly was made when as a sinner I came, took of the offer of grace He did proffer, He saved me O’ praise His dear name.”

It is reasonable to expect that those who have been much forgiven should readily forgive. That’s the point of the account. Anything less is unreasonable and deeply distressing. Those who have been much forgiven should be “forgiving each other” (Ephesians 4:32a). The reason? “Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32b). Ken Sande: “Christians are the most forgiven people in the world. Therefore, we should be the most forgiving people in the world.” Pat Morison: “We are not called to forgive others in order to earn God’s love; rather, having experienced his love, we have the basis and motive to forgive others.”

It is oftentimes thought that there is some victory won in withholding forgiveness. But that is not true. Anger and bitterness are emotions that work against the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of those who harbor them. In withholding forgiveness one might win the battle—but he will lose the war. I once knew a wealthy man, a believer in Christ, who became embittered with his daughter over a business related matter. He refused to forgive her. He cut her out of his will. His bitterness began to affect his thinking. He lost his health, his wife, and then his wealth. He was taken advantage of by a woman who stole away his money. He died a lonely and confused man. He won the battle—as far as I know he never forgave the daughter--but he lost the war.

Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness! Help me to readily show that same kind of forgiveness to others. To the praise of the glory of Your grace!

Pastor Jerry

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