Summary: The three stages to forgiving our brother from Christ’s parable of the unmerciful servant.
Christ’s "Parable of the Unmerciful Servant" is preceeded by a succinct set of guidelines on what to do when a brother sins against you. (Matthew 18:15-17)
1. First, try to keep the matter private. Hopefully, this will be all that’s necessary to restore fellowship and friendship. (Verse 15)
2. If that doesn’t work, get help from others. (Verse 16)
3. If you aren’t successful with the first two steps, share the issue with the church. (Verse 17a)
4. If he refuses to listen to the church, excommunicate him. (Verse 17b)
We simply don’t follow these guidelines like we should and often ended up making matters worse.
If we would follow Christ’s clear commands we would have great blessings:
1. The blessing of heavenly power! (Verse 18)
2. The blessing of answered prayer! (Verse 19)
3. The blessing of Christ’s presence! (Verse 20)
When Simon Peter heard Christ’s teaching he asked, "How often should I forgive my brother, seven times?" (Verse 21)
Now Simon probably stated his case this way because there was a rabbinical tradition that stated that if you forgave your brother seven times your obligation was met.
Christ answered the question with hyperbole. We aren’t to stop forgiving our brother at his seventh offence against us, but go on seventy times seven. In other words, we aren’t really supposed to be counting. We’re supposed to be forgiving!
Hence the platform for the parable.
Two servants. Both in debt. One owes a great debt; is forgiven his debt; yet he goes and treats a man who owes him a lesser amount unmercifully.
Who is Christ talking about? Us - when we don’t forgive our brother for sinning against us when God has forgiven us so much more for sinning against Him!
Let’s look at the three stages of forgiving our brother found in this parable.
1. Accepting God’s forgiveness is the first stage to forgiving our brother. Matthew 18:23-27
Like the first man, our sin debt is so great we could never repay it on our own.
Ten thousand talents would be the equivalent of millions of dollars today. This man owed a debt he could not pay. So it is with our sins. We are completely ruined and helpless, spiritually blind and "dead in trespasses and sins". (Epesians 2:1) Any attempt to say otherwise is contrary to the basic tenets of Scripture. Our sin is not just an inconvenience. It separates us from God and we are totally uable to solve the difficulty on our own. This is an unpalatable and humbling truth but it is truth nonetheless.
We are not reminded of this in the Bible because God is trying to beat us down. Rather, an understanding of the depth of our sins helps us appreciate the value of forgiveness.
The first man in this parable had a lot to appreciate. He was forgiven a debt he did not have the ability to repay on his own.
God’s grace is like that! It is greater than our sin!
Here’s the rub. A lot of forgiven folks don’t practically act like they’re forgiven. So let’s look at a few Bible verse on this topic.
Romans 4:7,8 NLT (Quote from Psalm 32:1,2) - "Oh, what joy for those who disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose sin is no longer counted against them by the Lord."
Colossians 2:13-15 NLT - "You were dead becaue of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all your sins. He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ."
Somebody say, "Thank you, Lord!"
1 John 2:12 - "I am writing to you, my dear children, because your sins have been forgiven because of Jesus."
If you have turned to Christ by faith, His mercy and grace have dealt with your sin debt! Be thoroughly convinced of it! The Word of God is clear on this issue.
When you become solidly convinced that God has forgiven you - it will become less difficult to forgive your brother!
2. The second stage to forgiving our brother is to view him as God views us. Matthew 18:28-30
The first man in the parable was forgiven millions and he wouldn’t forgive the man who owed him what would amount to thousands today.
Why should we be surprised that our brother sins against us? He has the same sin nature we have. He is a debtor just like we are.
Colossians 3:13 NLT - "You must make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember that the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."