WEEK 7: Forgiveness
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’” (Matthew 18:21-35, NIV)
In this parable, Jesus clearly illustrates the importance of forgiveness and the penalty of unforgiveness.
Peter must have felt pretty smart and spiritual by asking Jesus if he should forgive a person seven times, especially since the Old Testament Law states that a person should be paid back what he is owed (“But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise…” Exodus 21:23-25).
Instead, Jesus replies by saying that Peter should be willing to forgive not only seven times, but 77 times. Jesus is essentially saying that we ought to forgive those who tresspass against us an unlimited number of times… not just when it suits us, and not just when we feel like it.
To make matters worse, Jesus says that those who do not forgive will be tortured (“In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed” – v.34). When we refuse to forgive others, God refuses to forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15). Could it be that you are being ‘tortured’ in some way by anger, anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness and sadness because you refuse to forgive? (Ask the Lord to speak to you about this.)
The challenge for us is to forgive people as a choice, not because of a feeling. I am convinced that Jesus didn’t feel like forgiving the Pharisees and Roman soldiers when they nailed Him to that cross, spat on Him and mocked Him – He chose to forgive them because He loved them.
Prayer: Everlasting Father and Gracious God, help me to forgive my father, mother, brother, sister, friend, aunt, uncle or enemy by the power of your Holy Spirit. Help me to let go of the debt that is owed to me. Help me to forgive my neighbour for the wrong that was done to me. Help me to trust that You will deal with them as You see fit. Set me free from the torture that I have been experiencing because of my unforgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.