Updated: Jan 11, 2020
Matthew 18:21-35 is the parable of the unmerciful servant. Jesus was segwayed into this parable by Peter asking how much do we forgive those that offend us; thinking surely seven times is enough. Jesus responds with “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
Causing confusion among the listeners, Jesus tells about the unmerciful servant. This servant was indebted to his master. Since he was not able to pay his debt, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant begged for patience from the master. The master took pity on him and cancelled all his debt and let him go.
Later, the servant with the cancelled debt found that one of his fellow servants owed him money. Just as he had done, the fellow servant begged for mercy but was instead thrown in prison for not paying his debt. Verses 32-33: “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?’"
I get it, I have to forgive others because I have been forgiven... NO! No, no, no, there is so much more!
1. Jesus let's us decide the meeting point. Imagine being stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire. Whether you contact a friend, spouse, parent, or tow truck, the request is the same: "can you come get me?" We humble ourselves to total dependency on someone coming to us. The person that is coming to help must meet you right where you are. Not because you wouldn't love to meet them half way, but you have come to the end of your resources and abilities. What if your ride demanded that you walk 10 miles to a meeting point to "make it even?" Hey, guys, we do that to other sinners. The servant was empty-handed and was forgiven of the debt anyway. Jesus let's us decide where the meeting point is. Whether it's crying in the back of a church or face down drunk on your bathroom floor, Jesus is constantly asking us when? and where?
2. Forgiveness is our chance to be most LIKE Jesus. Solve the riddle: what's the one thing that Jesus taught but never needed: forgiveness. Sometimes our walk with Christ opens our eyes to our issues with others, wishing they were motivated for God in the same ways we are. But if we commit to meeting others where they are, then forgiveness becomes our chance to be most like Jesus. Count your forgiveness towards a fellow sinner as an act of obedience. It's not letting them off the hook or reinstating all their rights and privileges, it's refusing to answer sin with sin. We live in a very "justice must be served" type of society, but who is righteous enough to settle the score? Who is sinless among us? Forgiveness is a free gift to someone who is already in debt. If the offender continues to offend, that's on them. Live in the peace that change in the offender will happen through mimicking the life of Christ.
3. Forgiveness requires self reflection. People that forgive know how forgiven they are. If we can't look in the mirror and remember all the times someone paid our bill, then our heart can't be open to forgiving someone else. One of the best things we can do as followers of Christ is to see the stranded soul through compassionate lenses with arms extended and say "I have been where you've been." And it's only by receiving the forgiveness of Jesus Christ will that stranded soul look back at you and say "Really? You don't look like what you've been through."
This is the power of Christ in us. Don't let yourself get so far from where you came from that you don't recognize your old self in someone else. For you are the exact person that will help them through it.