Summary: We are blessed when our sins are forgiven... how much greater is the blessing when we can forgive those who wrong us.
God Is Merciful-- Are We?
Today’s scripture reminds me of the story told about Gen. Robert E. Lee after the civil war. Lee visited
a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she
bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal Artillery fire. She looked to Lee for
a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said,
"Cut it down, madam, and forget it. It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to
remain, let bitterness take root, and poison the rest of our life.” [Lee:The Last Years, Charles Flood]
In this passage, Jesus speaks to Peter about forgiveness. Peter asks a question: "Lord, how often shall
my brother sin against me and I forgive him? seven times?” A sincere question from a sincere man.
We must look back for a moment to the beginning of C. 18 to better understand the reason for this
question. Jesus was in Capernaum, teaching, and the disciples came to him with an important question.
One that had evidently been on their minds for awhile. "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of
heaven?" Jesus’ discourse from that point on deals with that question. Unless we come to him as
innocent as children in our faith, we have no hope of receiving the Kingdom. “If your brother sins
against you, go and tell him... settle your differences... how can you live with me if you can’t live with
Peter hears these words and he immediately asks this question: "Lord, how often should I forgive my
brother-- seven times?” To a man as determined, as realistic as Peter, seven times seemed like a great
amount of latitude, of forgiveness for wrongs done him. He might be willing to forgive seven times,
but wrong him an eighth and look out. Conditional forgiveness...
Two brothers, Harry and James, were playing right before bedtime, and somehow Harry hit James with
a stick. Tears and bitter words followed and they were still angry as their mother prepared them for
bed. Mother said, "Now James, before you go to bed you’re going to have to forgive your brother."
James thought for a moment and then replied, "Well OK, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I don’t die in
the night, he’d better look out in the morning." Conditional forgiveness. Peter would be willing to go
so far, but he, like we, suffered with the difficult process of forgiveness.
Once again, Peter did not understand what Jesus was saying... he didn’t grasp the spiritual
implications. Jesus said, "Not seven times, but seventy times seven." Jesus was not using this as an
actual number, this was a number to represent an infinite number. As was so often the case, Jesus
taught Peter and the others by means of a parable. Unconditional forgiveness...
V.23 A king called people to settle accounts. One man owed him 10,000 talents ($10 million),but
couldn’t pay. The king commanded that he and his family be sold to pay the debt. The man begged for
compassion and the king forgave the debt. Notice, the king did not say: “give him more time”, or “let
him work out payment plan”... he forgave the debt!! This same man went out and found a fellow
servant who owed him 100 pence or 10 denarii ($20) and demanded payment. This man begged also,
but the man would not forgive the debt and cast him into prison. The king heard about this and cast
him into prison as well!
Unconditional forgiveness... see the analogy here:
God has called his people to account. The debt of sin has compounded and now must be paid. This
man owed $10 million... more than the entire country could pay in a lifetime... you see, a debt so great
that the man could never pay it. Our sin debt to God is a debt that we could never pay. We will never
have the resources to balance the account. The king forgave the debt... God forgave us this terrible
debt. Christ would pay this tremendous debt for us. But, after being forgiven, we go out and like the
servant, refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters who sin against us. We have been forgiven a greater
debt than we could ever hope to repay and yet we refuse to forgive a trifling offense by our brother.
The king cast this servant into prison... if we can not forgive those who sin against us, we are living
our lives in a prison of bitterness that ultimately poisons our souls. We become slaves to this hatred,
When I was in the 8th grade I was tormented daily by a bully. It was not physical so much as mental...