Matthew 18:21, “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?”
Peter is asking Jesus what everyone of us have asked Him before, “What do I do with forgiveness when the person hurts me over and over – the same way?”
Jesus’ response to Peter was simple, “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).
The parable that follows is one of the greatest examples of forgiveness for us to follow and one of the toughest. It is from Matthew 18:23-27 and it tells of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. There was a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. The king requested that the man be brought before him. When the man told the king he could not pay him back, the king ordered for the man, his wife, his children and all his belongings be sold to pay back the debt. The man pleaded with the king and assured him he would pay him back. The king felt sorry for the man, forgave the debt, and let him go with no consequence.
He didn’t extend the time to pay the debt back; he didn’t work out additional terms of the loan; the king CANCELED the debt the man owed.
When people hurt us, we believe we are owed something. The question is what?
Money? Time? A new relationship? A do-over?
What could someone actually do to repay you for what you have suffered?
The real answer is not “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; the real answer is “Do unto others as Jesus Christ did unto you.” But that is really hard.
The conclusion of the parable brings quite an added twist. When the man who was forgiven his debt by the king leaves, he goes and finds a servant who owed him. When the servant explains he cannot pay him back, the man has him thrown into jail. When the king hears of the man’s handling of his servant, he calls the man back in and has him thrown into jail and tortured until the debt is repaid.
Matthew 18:35, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Forgiveness is a “heart issue.” It comes when we realize those who have hurt us do not deserve our forgiveness; but, they receive it because we have been forgiven by Jesus Christ. The harsh reality is we believe we forgive for the other person; but, we forgive for ourselves. For our hearts. For the protection of our souls. Forgiveness is a decision to cancel the debt; to walk away and say, “You owe me nothing.” It is a decision to stop telling the story; to stop hearing the wrong over & over in our heads; and to choose to say, “He/she doesn’t owe me anything.”
Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”