Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's better to forgive

Last night my small group bible study focused on "The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant" from Matthew 18:21-35."

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.” 

I'm going to cut straight to the chase regarding the bottom line of this parable.  Forgive others as you have been forgiven.  The unmerciful servant was forgive an extraordinary amount of money.  He would never have been able to repay his master.  The forgiveness the master gave this servant was remarkable and extremely generous.  Then the unmerciful servant came upon a servant that owed him a small amount of money and demanded repayment and withheld forgiveness.  This lack of forgiveness in the unmerciful servant is appalling to the other servants, as it should be.  The gall of this unmerciful servant is appalling and nobody feels bad for him when he is thrown in jail and tortured.

Forgiveness, we decided, is a process.  There is nothing in this story that indicates forgiveness has to happen immediately.  There are times when the injury is so great that time is needed before forgiveness can be considered.  Forgiveness is not a passive endeavor.  In fact, forgiveness is a very active process and shows great love and compassion to others

We also came to the conclusion that forgiveness is heals the forgiver even more than the forgiven.  Forgiving relieves us from pain and bitterness.  It's been said that not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.  Not gonna happen.

Forgiveness does not remove accountability.  You can have both, forgiveness and accountability.  Also, forgiving someone does not mean you are saying their actions were acceptable.  Actions have consequences and forgiveness does not remove those consequences.

There is more to forgiveness than just saying, "I forgive you."  Forgiveness is a heart thing.  Forgiveness is the removal of the desire for vengeance.  We came to the conclusion that forgiveness can uplift people.  It not only uplifts the forgiver and the forgiven, but it can bring light and joy into the world and uplift witnesses of the act of forgiveness.  In the parable we see how the actions of the unmerciful servant were appalling to the servants witnessing the forgiveness.  Inversely, we see the impact of the forgiveness shown by the Amish community in Nickel, PA after the murder of the schoolgirls in 2006.  There were newspaper articles and segments on forgiveness on network magazine shows and books written.  This act of forgiveness was nationwide news.

So why is it so hard to forgive?  We all know of ongoing feuds and distance between family members caused by unforgiveness.  Sometimes, when asked, the parties involved in these situations may not even remember what caused the rift, but they are not going to be the one doing the forgiving.  Forgiveness is only hard when we take it out of the perspective of forgiving as we have been forgiven by God.  When we are alone and without the support of the community of believers, it is much more difficult to forgive.  (I'm not saying the only people that can forgive are believers because forgiveness is for all people)  A community of faith in Jesus Christ and belief in God can keep our perspective right and remind us of how much we have been forgiven.  (Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.)

306.  Studying God's word with broken, but forgiven people
307.  God's forgiveness
308.  Learning from my group and having examples of those much more mature in their faith than I am
309.  Hearing the truth and having the Holy Spirit living in me, confirm that it is truth
310.  Having the rift between my brother and father prayed for, daily, by Godly men and women
311.  Seeing the hearts of both these men begin to soften

I am linking with Shanda at On Your Heart Tuesdays


  1. i am rather fond of using matthew 18 when it comes to forgiveness...its active...NT Wright does a great teaching on this in Evil and the justice of God

  2. Really good post.

  3. So forgive or feel the wrath of God.. hrmmmmm.. tough one...

  4. It is hard to believe that if we don't forgive others our Lord won't forgive us.  Seems much easier to let God forgive us than for us to forgive those who have wronged us.  But we wrong the Lord everyday!

  5. It's like the quote that I see flying around, "Unforgiveness is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die."     That sums it up!


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