What is the value of forgiveness? What is greater our sin against God or someone’s sin against me? When is enough, enough? When do we claim our rights over grace? How should we demonstrate grace and forgiveness in light of the great forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ?
I need to begin by saying that forgiveness always comes at a personal cost. The one offering forgiveness will have to find something of greater value than that cost. In our culture we are told that we are number one, we are independent, and we are entitled (have rights). To offer true forgiveness this sense of entitlement is what is sacrificed, so what is of greater value? We most often will truly forgive when we see the value of restoring a relationship over personal pride and entitlement to hold on to the hurts and the wrong doings. Holding on to these things will put us in a prison of its own kind. We too should forgive as we have been forgiven. We forgive as an act of grace and mercy, we forgive to restore, we forgive because we too have received mercy and grace from others, and we forgive because the King has forgiven us.
The story actually begins before today’s scripture. In the previous verses there is talk about steps to take in dealing with one who has hurt or offended us. We are told that if you are the offended person the other may not know, so you go to them privately first. If that doesn’t work go with one or two other trusted leaders, if there is still no resolution we are to take the matter to the church. After following all these steps if there is not resolution then treat them as like unbeliever and try to restore them.
Often this has been used by folks to look at this and this is what I should do so the other person will know I am right. The issue is not who is right, but how does this bring about restoration of a relationship within the body? The question then becomes are you ready as the offended party to accept an apology and restore the relationship. If “sorry” is not good enough for you, then first we need to talk to God about ourselves and our hearts first, then we need to talk to God about the other person, and then take the opportunity to confront them. In this sense it is not about who was right and wrong, but what will we do to restore this relationship and it will require sacrifice to bring restoration.
Peter understands that he should forgive, but how many times should we forgive? What a brave question. Basically at what point am I allowed to not forgive them, or hold this over their heads? Jesus responds to Peter’s question with a story that demonstrates there is more going on than just human relationships but also the relationship with the king. This story is about a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like this and in doing so reminds Peter that forgiveness is not just about us, but is about the kingdom of heaven and how we deal with forgiveness and our relationship with one another is significant.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. The king begins the settlement and a man who owed the king close to a million dollars in today’s money is brought before the king. What options do you think you would have if you were in debt like this?
The king decides how and when the debts are settled. Since the debt was too great and the man was unable to pay, the master ordered that the man, his wife, his children, and all that he had should be sold to pay the debt. What would you do? He did the only thing he could do. He fell on his knees and begged for mercy, for more time, he said that with more time I will pay it all back. How does one get in this type of debt, and who really believes he can pay it back? This is a clear indication that it could a million dollars or whatever it is, it is clearly impossible that he cannot repay the debt on his own.
We cannot repay the debt of our sin either. It would be like the average person trying to repay a debt of a million dollars. Sin puts us at such a distance that we cannot without the help of the King overcome it. We have been given a great gift of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is this forgiveness that brings the expectation that we should forgive others because of the great forgiveness we have been offered.
This servant went out and tried to hold someone else’s small debt although he had been given forgiveness of a great debt. When the king found out, he called him wicked and put him away. Which servant will you be? Will you be the one that recognizes the gift of forgiveness and offers it to others or will you be liked the wicked servant not offering forgiveness? Which one will you be?