Fighting with forgiveness
I recently had a conversation with a friend about forgiveness. Needless to say, it was a tough conversation.
Forgiveness is hard. It’s usually the last thing we want to do after being wronged. But God commands us to forgive others. The Bible is full of references to forgiveness.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 ESV).
“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Col. 3:13 NLT).
There’s something these two verses have in common. Yes, they’re both about forgiveness. But look a little closer. Both of these verses tell us to forgive others while also reminding us of how we’ve been forgiven.
Jesus says, “‘But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins’” (Matt. 6:15 NLT).
Those are some serious words. I don’t know about you, but I need God’s forgiveness. The Bible says my “… righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6 ESV). Let alone my unrighteous “deeds.” In other words, considering I’m desperate for God’s forgiveness, I must forgive people.
But when I ponder the incredible amount of forgiveness given to me by Jesus, I find it easier to forgive others.
In Matthew 18, Jesus shares a parable about an unforgiving servant. This particular servant owes the king ten thousand talents. Now, in today’s currency, that’s millions of dollars. In other words, this guy owes the king an unpayable amount of money. Therefore, the king decides to sell the servant, along with his family and possessions. In response to this, the servant falls to his knees and begs the king for grace.
“‘And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt’” (v. 27 ESV).
Wow. Talk about forgiveness. What kind of king forgives an unpayable debt? His name is God. I’m the servant. You’re the servant. We owe God an unpayable debt because of sin. Through Jesus Christ, we can be completely forgiven. That’s the Gospel!
But wait. There’s more.
“‘But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [a few thousand dollars], and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, “Pay what you owe”’” (v. 28 ESV).
The forgiven servant unwilling to forgive his own servant. That’s our story when we refuse to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. Notice how the unforgiving servant is forgiven for much more than a few thousand dollars. The king forgives him for millions of dollars!
You’ll never be asked to give more grace than the amount of grace given to you. God has already outdone your forgiveness. And then some.
The forgiven servant throws his own servant in jail. The king hears about it. As a result, the king has the unforgiving servant thrown in jail for life. How do I know it’s for life? Because there’s no way this guy can pay the king millions of dollars.
Jesus ends the parable with a simple statement: “‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart’” (v. 35 ESV).
Genuine forgiveness comes from the heart. It’s not empty words. It’s not an angry, “I’m sorry!” All parents know what that sounds like. Instead, it’s real forgiveness from the bottom of our hearts. And that’s not easy.
I’m learning that the opposite of grace is bitterness. One of my favorite Bible verses says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15 ESV).
You see, when you miss the grace of God, you develop a bitter spirit. And that bitter spirit, that unforgiving spirit, is contagious. According to Hebrews, unforgiveness multiples. Therefore, it’s important for you to embrace God’s grace. Cherish the fact that He is willing to forgive you of your sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.
When you experience God’s grace for yourself, it’s much easier to give grace to others.