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By Mary Carothers
Last week I listened as some folks talked about how hard it was to forgive a person who had done something bad to them. It’s not too likely that anyone reaches adulthood without having experienced situations where they felt betrayed. Because of this, whether we decide to forgive someone or not, it’s important to know what God has to say about it.
Tonight, I read in Matthew 18:21 where Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother. In His response to Peter, Jesus tells a parable about forgiving. A very wealthy king decided it was high time for some folks who owed him money to pay him. He calls in one fellow who owed him a huge amount. When the fellow begs for more time to pay the king, he has compassion for him and even goes so far as to forgive the debt and wipe his slate clean. Imagine how elated that man must have felt! He wouldn’t have to go to debtors’ prison! He was a free man!
Well, surprise, surprise! Instead of rushing home to share the good news with his family, he wants to do something else. He finds a man who owes him a small amount and demands instant payment. When this other man begs for time to pay him, do you think the recently forgiven man shows compassion and mercy? No. He throws the debtor into prison until he pays his debt – if he ever can.
When the king discovers what has been going on, he calls in the unforgiving man. He rebukes him for not forgiving his fellow man and commands that he be cast into prison – virtually forever.
Now, here is the scary part! Jesus then told His listeners that God would do the same to us if we don’t forgive those who harm us or those we love.
The disciples wanted Jesus to teach them how to pray. He responded with what has come to be called the Lord’s prayer, part of which includes “forgive us our sins just as we forgive those who sin against us” (see Matt 6). Jesus then goes on in verses 14 and 15 to say: For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Why then, do many of us have a problem with trying to forgive others? It is because we think we must feel forgiving. But the act of forgiving someone is an act of our will. It has nothing to do with our emotions. We simply determine with our will to forgive someone – because Jesus commands us to. When those feelings of unforgiveness arise – and they will – we then need to think of all Jesus has forgiven us. This is a great opportunity to begin to thank and praise Jesus for His forgiveness.
Thank You, Jesus, for taking God’s punishment for my sins. Thank You, Lord for forgiving me and making me your child. I know it was my sins that caused your suffering and death. I love You, God for your great plan of salvation.