When I was young, and attended Bible classes, I learned the value of forgiveness. I can still vividly recall the sensation when I realized that Jesus forgave my sins many years by His selfless death on the cross. I could not count all of the times I sinned. In God’s eyes, I deserved nothing less than separation from His Holy presence … I deserved to be cast into the Lake of Fire. Justice must be blind. Yet, love found a way.
Two decades later, and I find myself constantly amazed by the lack of forgiveness in the world today. I would need several hands to count the number of people whom no longer talk to me because of a grudge held from an argument from years ago. Recently, I had someone tell me that my apology was acknowledged, but not accepted. And this message was delivered, with a straight, serious face, by another person. I asked the messenger how they felt by the attitude relayed in the message. He saw nothing wrong with it. After all, it’s our right to forgive or not, right?
The Bible shows us an illustration of what happens when we do not forgive our brothers and sisters here on earth.
Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV)
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a] 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 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. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
I do struggle with this myself, at times. I still feel pain from things done to me years ago by loved ones. Yet, this example from God’s Word leaves little room for doubt. Through God, all things are possible, right? Let’s work to forgive those around us, that we might experience God’s full and wonderful forgiveness in our lives.