“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Forgiving someone who has hurt you may be the hardest thing you ever have to do. Especially, if that person has hurt you over and over again. Remember, Jesus told this parable to answer Peter’s question about how often we need to forgive someone. Our natural reaction to being hurt is to strike back or to run away. Those responses may spare us from being hurt again, but that’s not what Jesus asks of us. He wants us to forgive others, just as God forgives us. (It’s important to say, Jesus is not telling anyone to stay in an abusive relationship and continue to be hurt. You can forgive and also protect yourself from being hurt again.)
In Jesus’ parable, financial debt stands for the hurt caused by someone else’s sin. It might be easier for many of us to cancel a debt than to truly forgive someone from our hearts. We can’t erase the memory of angry words or hateful actions. We can’t forget what others have done to us or how they made us feel. But forgiveness is like canceling a financial debt in that once we have offered to forgive, we no longer have a right to hold their sin against them. If you burn the promissory note, you can’t write a new one for the same debt. Forgiveness may not feel like a legal, financial transaction, but somehow our hearts need to treat it that way.
The hardest line of this passage is the last one. Jesus tells us that God won’t forgive us if we refuse to forgive others. This isn’t a way to earn or lose salvation, but Jesus wants us to take to heart just how important forgiveness is. In fact, it’s so important to God that He sent his own Son to die on the cross so He could forgive our enormous spiritual debt. If for no other reason, we should forgive others out of gratitude for God’s grace toward us and out of obedience to Jesus’ words. It’s never easy to forgive, but remember what it cost God to forgive you.
Thank You, Jesus, for paying the price for my sin. Teach me to forgive others, just as You show unending mercy to me. You are my Savior, and I love You. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian