Summary: As challenging as it may be Christians are called to place no limitations on their forgiveness of others.
Matthew 18:21-35 “Forgiven to Forgive”
The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar business. There are millions of people, like you and me, who are willing to shell out significant amounts of cash in order to attain the nirvana of success. They develop seven habits, take five steps, walk on burning coals, and sit in sweat lodges in order to achieve their goal.
Some people treat Christianity as a self-help/self-improvement plan. Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and all of your problems will be solved. God will empower you to be all that you want to be. In the United States, being all that we want to be usually means being successful and affluent. God, though, wants more for us than we want for ourselves. God doesn’t want us merely to be successful, but rather God wants us to live lives of significance. God works in our lives not so that we have opulence, but so that we become obedient. This truth is clearly seen in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
Jesus makes it very clear that love is to be the distinguishing characteristic of his followers. “This is my commandment that you love one another,” he tells them. Throughout his ministry he demonstrated this love for others. Jesus’ love, though, is a tough love—tough for us.
One expression of our love for others is forgiveness. Most of us have people in our lives whom we do not want to forgive—we don’t want to love. Jesus confronts us as his followers and reminds us that his commandment is to love—to forgive.
There are quite a few of us who try to excuse our lack of love and explain that we can’t forgive. God doesn’t let us off the hook. Yes, we can forgive, but we don’t want to forgive.
We have the ability to forgive because we have been forgiven. The king, in the story, forgave the servant his debt. The king did not forgive just a little, he forgave a great debt. There was nothing left of the debt after the kings forgiveness. The servant was entirely free! We are completely forgiven. There is nothing that stands in the way of our relationship with God.
Having been forgiven, as the servant was, we often act like the servant and fail to forgive others. We perceive their sin toward us as greater than our sin toward God.
Most commentators point out that the servant’s action was probably not motivated by money, but rather by power. Having to ask the king to forgive his debt, took away his power. He wanted to regain his power by demonstrating that people were in debt to him.
We like to exercise our power over others. We convince ourselves that by not forgiving them we can cause them pain, suffering and regret. Jesus call to us in not to attempt to use power that we really don’t have, but rather to rely on his power—to forgive and to live free.
Loved and loving, forgiven and forgiving, we experience the life that God desires for us.
It is this life of love and forgiveness that we share with others and invite them to experience.