Summary: This is the 2nd in a two-part message on our responsibility to forgive based on God’s forgiveness of us. This part focuses on our forgiveness to others.

January 19, 2003 Matthew 18:28-35



Every now and then, Tammy will surprise me by using a new word that I would not expect her to use. She calls it her ¡§word for the day¡¨, and she¡¦ll find every situation possible to use it as often as she can for that day. She does this to increase her vocabulary and just to spice things up a little bit. This week, in my preparations for this morning, I ran across a word that would be good for each of us to add to our vocabulary so that we can use it often not only in our speech but in our relationships with other people. The word is "Magnanimous". To be magnanimous, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is to be "generous and gracious in forgiving an insult or harm done to [you]". As foreign as that word is to your vocabulary, that¡¦s how foreign the practice of forgiving those who have hurt or offended you in some way may be to your normal way of life. God wants that to change. He wants you to learn to make forgiveness your normal response to the hurts that other people bring into your life.

Last week, we began looking at a story that Jesus told to illustrate our responsibility to forgive. We examined the first part of the story, and we saw that it illustrates God¡¦s forgiveness toward us. We, because of our sin, owed a debt that we could never repay. But God, in His compassion toward us, did more than show leniency or patience. He gave us forgiveness. He forgave our entire debt.

This week, we are going to look at part 2 of that story. Part 2 is usually more difficult for us to handle because it deals with our forgiveness of other people in the things that they have done to us. ¡§To believe that God forgave me millennia ago, pardoning me in a broad theological sweep with billions of others, seems, for some reason, more reasonable than my granting forgiveness to someone who has wronged me.¡¨ But according to this passage that we will look at today and many other verses that we will consider, my forgiveness of others is not an option. It is a command.

In order to help us understand forgiveness, let me first share with you some things that forgiveness is not.

„h Denial

ignoring the effects of the wrongdoing.

„h Condoning

Nothing that bad happened. It was only this one time. It won’t happen again.

„h Excusing

„h Condemning

She/he deserves to know they have wronged me. ¡§The trouble with people forgiving and forgetting is that they keep reminding us they¡¦re doing it.¡¨ ¡V 14,000 quips and quotes compiled by E.C. McKenzie

„h Seeking Justice or Compensation

Forgiveness is not a quid pro quo deal--it doesn’t demand compensation first. ¡V the Forgiveness Institute

„h A sign of weakness

If it is a sign of weakness, then why in the world are we following Jesus? He must have been the weakest man who ever lived because as they were nailing Him to the tree, He cried out, ¡§Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.¡¨ (Luke 23:34)

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." -- Mahatma Gandhi

(Mat 6:12-15 NIV) Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

(Luke 6:37 NIV) "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

1. Examine the realities of the debt. ¡§a hundred denarii¡¨

„X Is it a real debt?

Just like we confuse wants and needs, we also confuse what is a real debt and what is something that should just be overlooked.

In the case of this servant, he owed a real debt. It was equivalent to what the average worker could make in 100 days. Think about your own salary. What do you make in 100 days? If someone owed you that much money, you would probably consider it a real debt that needed to be dealt with.

While tolerance makes allowances, forgiveness releases a legitimate debt.

{Tammy¡¦s experience yesterday}

Possible test of whether or not it is a legitimate debt. Their action that they committed against me ¡V was it also a sin against God?

„X How does their debt compare to the debt that you owed God? ¡§ten thousand talents¡¨ (vs.24)

One day when I was thinking about what was done to me, I thought about what was done to Christ. He was wronged and betrayed more than anyone else in the world. If anyone had the right to complain or hold a grudge, He was the one. Yet, He did not. We should follow His example.

As I thought about this, I was startled by a realization. It was so simplistic, but the thought had never occurred to me before. We all know Jesus died for the sins of the world. But, what I failed to realize was the actual sin my friend had committed against me was one of the sins Jesus was punished for. That specific sin was already paid for and forgiven by God. The offense no longer has an outstanding debt. It has been dealt with and I must act on that fact.

(Col 3:13 NIV) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

2. Examine your immediate response to the debtor. ¡§grabbed ¡K choked him¡¨

„X Did you seek them out? ¡§found¡¨

When Wycliffe Bible translator Bob Russell sought a word for "forgiveness" in the language of the Amahuacas of eastern Peru, he discovered their unique way of asking one another for pardon. In that culture, if an offender wants to be reconciled with someone he¡¦s offended, he says to him, "Speak to me."

Russell learned that Amahuacas who are unreconciled typically refuse to speak to each other. So when the offender asks the offended to speak, it¡¦s the equivalent of saying, "Show me we¡¦re friends again by being on speaking terms once more."

The many biblical terms translated in English as "forgive" reflect a beautiful array of meanings: to cancel debts; to lay aside or to cast away sins; to spare, to cleanse, to rescue, or to free the sinner.

The prophet Isaiah put it this way: "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). Our wickedness is an offense to God¡¦s holiness, and we aren¡¦t on "speaking terms" until the offense is forgiven. But Christ¡¦s sacrifice has made a way for us to be reconciled.

For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins . . . Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ¡¦s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

¡XCol. 1:13¡V14, 21¡V22

The sins that came between God and us can be cast aside so that we can be friends again.

¡§I had a close friend in college who always seemed to be short of cash. One day he asked me for a small loan. As he well knew, I didn¡¦t have much money to spare, but I made the loan on the condition that he pay it back by a certain date when I would need it to pay a bill.

That date came and went, and the loan remained unpaid. At first I was upset, because I had to scramble to pay my bill. But I was well aware of his situation, so I let go of my anger and determined to cancel the debt for the sake of our friendship. Yet there was a problem: Because my friend knew he was guilty of breaking his promise and causing me hardship, he started avoiding me. He no longer dropped by my dorm room and never returned my phone calls. He began eating in a different dining hall so he wouldn¡¦t run into me.

In short, he lived every day under a cloud of shame that ruined our friendship. And his failure to come to me and talk about his offense denied me the chance to say, "I forgive your debt." Though my friend hid from me for months, the story had a happy ending. One night we ended up at the same party. When my friend walked into the room, his eyes met mine, and he knew what he had to do. He took me aside to ask my forgiveness. I told him the debt had been canceled long ago and asked him, with a hug, what had taken him so long to find out. We were on speaking terms again. ¡V ¡¥Forgiveness: Coming Home to God¡¦s Embrace¡¨ DJ, issue 114, p. 64, Paul Thigpen

„X Did you seek them out for redemption?

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Mt. 5:44, 45)

{Tammy¡¦s experience with her teacher yesterday. Prayed for her on the way home.}

¡§We are like beasts when we kill. We are like men when we judge. We are like God when we forgive.¡¨

(Prov 25:21 NIV) If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

A small boy at summer camp received a large package of cookies in the mail from his mother. He ate a few, then placed the remainder under his bed. The next day, after lunch, he went to his tent to get a cookie. The box was gone.

That afternoon a camp counselor, who had been told of the theft, saw another boy sitting behind a tree eating the stolen cookies. "That young man," he said to himself, "must be taught not to steal."

He returned to the group and sought out the boy whose cookies had been stolen. "Billy," he said, "I know who stole your cookies. Will you help me teach him a lesson?"

"Well, yes--but aren’t you going to punish him?" asked the puzzled boy.

"No, that would only make him resent and hate you," the counselor explained. "I want you to call your mother and ask her to send you another box of cookies."

The boy did as the counselor asked and a few days later received another box of cookies in the mail.

"Now," said the counselor, "the boy who stole your cookies is down by the lake. Go down there and share your cookies with him."

"But," protested the boy, "he’s the thief."

"I know. But try it--see what happens."

Half an hour later the camp counselor saw the two come up the hill, arm in arm. The boy who had stolen the cookies was earnestly trying to get the other to accept his jackknife in payment for the stolen cookies, and the victim was just as earnestly refusing the gift from his new friend, saying that a few old cookies weren’t that important anyway.

„X Did you seek them out for revenge? ¡§choked him¡¨

¡§When you bury the hatchet, don¡¦t bury it in your enemy¡¦s back.¡¨

(Prov 24:17 NIV) Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,

(Mat 5:44-45) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

"It is mine to avenge; I will repay" (Deut. 32:35).

"For the Lord has a day of vengeance" (Is. 34:8).

In reality, many people never take vengeance literally; only in their dreams and fantasies. But while these dreams of vengeance can never affect the guilty party, they operate much like an I.V., drop by drop injecting its spiritual venom into our own systems.

"At last I understood: in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God¡¦s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy. - Yancey, "What¡¦s So Amazing About Grace?" p.93

Leave the administration of justice to God. If they do not repent, God will judge them. If they do, then He will forgive them (as He has forgiven you). Either way, it¡¦s His job, not yours. ¡V Alan Perkins

You must relinquish all rights to the offense. As believers, God has instructed us to commit our possessions, body and life to God. All of these things actually become the property of God and we are only stewards of them. If something happens to them outside our control, we are not to fret. We must do the same thing to the offenses that have been done to us. We must commit all rights and control to God. We are to view it as though the offense was actually done to God, not us. There are two advantages to viewing an offense this way. First, God is much more capable of correcting a wrong deed than you or I. Second, doing this means you have relinquished all rights to dwell on the incident. You have no right to hold a grudge. The offense was no longer done to you, but to God. The person who chooses to forgive acts contrary to any natural inclinations for immediate and personal justice, imitating Jesus¡¦ response to the unjust treatment He endured: ¡§When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly¡¨ (1 Pet. 2:23).

3. Examine the debtor¡¦s reaction to the debt. ¡§Be patient¡KI will pay¡¨

„X What is their situation?

You probably remember me from the other day. I was the one who reacted very slowly to the green traffic light. When you honked your horn, I realized I was holding up traffic, so please accept my apology. However, I do want you to know why I seemed in a daze. You see, I was just at the doctor’s office getting the results of the biopsy I had two weeks ago, and I was wondering how I would tell my husband and children that I have cancer. My eyes were still stinging from crying, so, quite simply I didn’t even see the light change. Perhaps I should not have been driving, but I didn’t want to miss my appointment and there was no one else to take me.

And you over there, yes you. I was the one in the express lane at the supermarket. I know you are only supposed to take 12 items or less and I had a basket full. Please accept my apology. My mind was on my youngest daughter who ran away from home, and she’s just sixteen. I was so distraught then. You see, she somehow got in with the wrong crowd and started using drugs and drinking. I was remembering what a pretty little girl she had been most of her life. I know you were perturbed along with others in line. Please, accept my apology.

I remember you from the department store last week. I was so mean to you, when you were doing your job to the best of your ability. I acted so childishly. Please accept my apology. You see, I arrived home from work just yesterday and discovered that my wife had left me. But I should never have taken it out on you. Please, accept my apology.

The old saying about judging others before you have "walked a mile in their shoes," is a much needed reminder. Perhaps we all could try to be more cognizant of the fact that there are problems and situations in the lives of others of which we are totally unaware. So, maybe before we get frustrated in similar circumstances, and find we are momentarily inconvenienced or suffering through a pointless tirade, we should think a moment and understand that things may be going on in other’s lives which have caused them to be slower, absentminded or angry. ¡V The Foundation For a Better Life web sight

What is happening in a person¡¦s life does not excuse hurtful or sinful actions. But our focus here this morning is not the wrongness of the other person¡¦s actions. Our focus is our forgiveness of their actions, and working to understand their situation can help us to get closer to our goal of forgiving them.

„X What is their response?

Jesus gave the proper way for us and them to respond when we discover that an offense has occurred. (Mt 18:15-17)

Well, what if he responds properly, seeks my forgiveness, and then does it again. (Luke 17:3-4) So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ’I repent,’ forgive him." Jesus takes it even further here in Mt. 18 and says that if someone sins against me, I am to forgive him 77 times or as some translations say, 70 times 7 ¡V 490 times. The point is that there is to be no limit to my forgiveness of a person.

See, God did not wait for us to respond properly before He would provide the means for our forgiveness. (Rom 5:8-10) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

4. Examine your long-term resolution to the debt. ¡§thrown into prison¡¨

„X Does it make sense? ¡§thrown into prison¡¨

Is there any chance of you regaining what you lost if you separate yourself from the person who hurt you and lock them in a prison with bars made of the actions that they committed? Does that really help you any?

„X Does it cause confusion in those who know what¡¦s going on? ¡§other servants¡Kwere greatly distressed¡¨

In forgiveness, we emulate the character of God. By holding onto a sin against us and continually bringing it up, we emulate the character and actions of Satan, the accuser of the brethren.

„X Does it create more pain for you? ¡§tortured¡¨

In my study this week, I didn¡¦t really have any trouble understanding what this passage was talking about until I got to this last part. Here, we are left with a servant seemingly suffering for a debt that had already been forgiven by his master. What¡¦s even more confusing and alarming to me is that Jesus¡¦ last statement compares the actions of the master¡¦s servant with how God will treat us if we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us. He will not forgive our sins either. This prompted all kinds of questions within me. What is Jesus talking about when He says that the 1st servant was thrown into prison to be tortured until he re-paid the whole debt he owed? Could the king re-instate a debt that was owed after it had been forgiven? If so, what does that say about God¡¦s forgiveness of us and His promises to throw our sins into the deepest sea and separate them as far from us as the east is from the west? And what does this say about our eternal salvation ¡V I escaped the prison of hell, but if I fail to forgive other people, do I once again face the prospect of being thrown into hell?

Here is the answer that I came up with. The debt that this servant was paying on now was not the original debt that he owed. It was the debt that he incurred by refusing to forgive his fellow servant. Refusing to forgive did not re-instate his old debt; it gave him a new debt. And it caused the infliction of torture and imprisonment in his life. Whenever we fail to forgive, the same thing will happen to us.

Those of us who do forgive are left free to experience happiness and self healing and to go on with our lives. We aren¡¦t living with the extremely heavy and unnecessary burden of holding a grudge. Those who DON¡¦T forgive are still prisoners confined in their own cells of hatred and bitterness. These are the most unhappy people in the entire world.. ¡V Ray Navarro

It is clear that God desires, commands, and expects us to be forgiving. But, as with so much of life, we are faced with choices. We can either say, ¡§I will,¡¨ or ¡§I won¡¦t¡¨¡Vit¡¦s up to us. The person who decides against forgiveness, focusing instead on his own hurts and injustices, will reap severe consequences.

Because the unforgiving person focuses upon the debt owed him, he is incapable of extending grace and forgiveness to the person who wronged him. Not surprisingly, he does not find the forgiveness and mercy of God satisfying. Unforgiveness erects a barrier to receiving God¡¦s forgiveness, cripples personal relationships, and warps a person¡¦s understanding of his own worth. ¡V Kathy Dahlen, ¡§Free to Forgive¡¨, DJ, issue 105


On Christmas Day, 1974,10-year-old Chris Carrier was kidnapped. When the boy was finally found, he had been burned with cigarettes, stabbed with an ice pick, shot in the head and left for dead. Miraculously, young Chris survived, the only permanent physical damage, blindness in his left eye. He went on to become a youth pastor in the Presbyterian Church. Twenty-two years after the kidnapping, David McAllister - 77-years old, blind and dying in a nursing home confessed to the crime. Chris began visiting the man who had tortured him and left him for dead. Chris prayed with and for him, read the Bible with him and did everything he could to help David make peace with God in the time he had left in this life. In speaking of this ministry to his abuser Chris said, "While many people can¡¦t understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn¡¦t not forgive him. If I¡¦d chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn¡¦t be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be." He went on to say, "I became a Christian when I was 13. That night was the first night I was able to sleep through the night, without waking up from my nightmares.It would be selfish not to share that same peace with David McAllister. That¡¦s how extravagant God¡¦s forgiveness is toward us and that¡¦s the same kind of extravagance we should show to one another. " ¡V Gregory Dawson


What if you just can¡¦t forgive? (Phil 4:13 NIV) I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

What if you just tried to forgive, but you just keep thinking about it? (2 Cor 10:5 KJV) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

(Phil 4:8 KJV) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.