Summary: The Two Debtors (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Matthew chapter 18 verses 21-35.


“Forgiveness is a marvellous idea;

Until you are the one who has to do it”.


• Old Joe was dying.

• For years he had been at odds with Bill, formerly one of his best friends.

• Wanting to straighten things out,

• He sent word for Bill to come and see him.

• When Bill arrived,

• Joe told him that he was afraid to go into eternity with such a bad feeling between them.

• Then, very reluctantly and with great effort,

• Joe apologized for things he had said and done.

• He also assured Bill that he forgave him for his offences.

• Everything seemed fine until Bill turned to go.

• As he walked out of the room, Joe called out after him,

• “Bill, remember, if I get better, this doesn’t count!”


• The two brothers who went to their rabbi to settle a longstanding feud.

• The rabbi got the two to reconcile their differences and shake hands.

• As they were about to leave,

• He asked each one to make a wish for the other in honour of the Jewish New Year.

• The 1st brother turned to the other and said, “I wish you what you wish me.”

• At that, the 2nd brother threw up his hands & said, “See, Rabbi, he’s starting up again!”

In contrast to those two stories:


Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a “light bulb”;

• It took a whole team of men;

• 24 straight hours to put just one together.

• The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb,

• He gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs.

• Step by step he cautiously watched his hands,

• Obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work.

• You’ve probably guessed what happened by now;

• The poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs.

• It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb.

• Finally, tired and ready for a break,

• Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs.

• He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one.

• That’s true forgiveness.

• One more personal and meaningful example:


• Corrie Ten Boom writes:

• “From the crest of the hill we saw it, like a vast scar on the green German landscape:

• A city of low grey barracks surrounded by concrete walls;

• On which guard towers rose at intervals.

• In the very centre, a square smokestack emitted a thin grey vapour into the blue sky.

• The name of this prison camp "Ravensbruck!” (notorious women's extermination camp).

• “It was the third night as we were getting ready to lie down again under the sky;

• When the order came to report to the processing centre for new arrivals.

• A ten-minute march brought us to the building.

• We inched along a corridor into a huge reception room.

• And there under the harsh ceiling lights we saw a dismal sight.

• As each woman reached a desk where some officers sat;

• She had to lay her blanket, pillowcase,

• And whatever else she carried onto a growing pile of these things.

• A few desks further along;

• She had to strip off every scrap of clothes,

• Throw them onto a second pile,

• And walk naked past the scrutiny of a dozen S.S. men into the shower room.

• Coming out of the shower she wore only a thin prison dress and a pair of shoes.

• Nothing more.”

Corrie ten Boom never forgot that night or the nightmare that followed:

• Altogether, ninety-six thousand women died at Ravensbruck,

• One of whom was her sister Betsie.

• Just two days after her sister's death,

• Corrie was miraculously released and returned home.

• In 1959 Corrie revisited Ravensbruck;

• And learned that her release had been the result of a clerical error.

• One week later all women her age had been sent to the gas chambers.

In the years immediately following the end of the war:

• Corrie carried the healing message of the gospel throughout Europe,

• Encouraging people to replace the bitterness & hate of war with God's forgiveness & love.

• Nowhere was this message needed more desperately than in Germany.

• & it was while she was speaking there that Corrie's faith was unexpectedly put to the test.

• Corrie writes:

• “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him,

• The former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door;

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