Forgiveness is modeled for us by Jesus who gave His life to forgive our sins. The truth is that when we practice forgiveness towards others, it set’s us free from the events that caused us to be offended or hurt in the first place. Forgiveness is critical, without it we will always be chained to the past and will never be free!
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Jesus took forgiveness very seriously because He knew the destructive nature of unforgiveness in our lives. Jesus knew that if we do not forgive, we chain ourselves to negative events and we’re unable to walk in faith in the blessings God has provided for us. Unforgiveness will interfere with your relationship with God and with others. If you allow unforgiveness to dominate you, it will cause your personality to shrivel and your ability to see the good in people and things will dissipate.
The example in Matthew 18 above of the servant who is forgiven an impossible to repay debt but then turns around and imprisons a fellow servant over a small debt is a lesson to us. We have been forgiven by God of a debt we could not repay. Our sins were terrible ( no matter how good you think you were) and we were deserving of death. God in His mercy forgave all our sins through Jesus on the cross. If we have a true understanding of how much we have been forgiven of, we will be able to forgive others their comparatively small debt of offence against us.
The last portion of the story, where the king throws the unforgiving servant into prison and has him tortured can be misunderstood. We must read this story with the understanding that we are forgiven because we believe in Jesus. We do not lose our forgiveness by choosing to practice unforgiveness to other but we do neutralise the joy and peace that our forgiveness in Jesus brings us. By walking in unforgiveness we put ourselves into the torment /torture that comes from a lack of peace and joy.
Points to remember about forgiveness:
1- You are not saying what they did is right or OK
When you forgive someone, you are releasing them to God who is the true and righteous judge. We are trusting God that He will deal with that person in the correct way.
2- You are not forgetting what happened
The concept that to forgive is to forget is silly. You do not get amnesia when you forgive. You will always have memories of the event but when you forgive, those memories no longer control you. You can put them to the background and live your life free.
3- You are not required to trust immediately
Forgiveness is a choice, trust is a place. It is OK to forgive but to also expect that person to show their changed life and rebuild the trust that was broken. Some trust can never be fully restored and we should not allow that to prevent us from choosing to forgive. Forgiving is not a commitment to trust.
Let’s choose to always forgive. Jesus commands this of us and we know that Jesus never asked to do anything impossible or that He did not give us the power to do!