Dealing With The Need To Forgive Others

Grace For The Journey


2May  A mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her little boy scream.  She got in the room and saw the little boy’s younger sister pulling his hair.  Taking her daughter’s hand and slowly releasing her grip on her the boy’s hair, the mother said, “There, there. She didn’t mean it. She’s only two.  She doesn’t know it hurts.”  The little boy nodded his head as the mother left the room.  His mother had hardly shut the door behind herself before hearing the little girl scream.  Rushing back into the room the mother said, “What happened?!”  The little boy said, “She knows now!” 

We all face the challenge of forgiving others.  Forgiving others is not always easy.  It is much easier to seek revenge or get even like the little boy with his sister.  But Christians are called to a higher standard.

In Matthew 18, Peter approaches Jesus with a question about forgiveness.  Today we are going to the Matthew 18:21-35 and see what these verses teach us.   Verse 21 says, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ ”  The Jewish people believed it was a noble thing to forgive an offender three times.  Peter figures Jesus raises the bar and that for him the “forgiveness limit” is probably more than three, so he suggests, “Up to seven times?”  

Notice what Jesus says to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  Some translations have, “seventy seven times.”  It matters little how you translate it because . . .

Jesus’ point is

That there is

No limit

To forgiveness.

As we study these verses we learn several vital truths for life:

1) We must Forgive Continually.

The immediate context concerns the forgiveness of a believer; a Christian brother or sister.  Because Christians can forgive on the strength and power of the gospel, they have the ability to forgive anyone who sins against them.

Jesus commands us to, “Love our enemies.”  He says in Matthew 5:44, “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”  We must forgive and we must forgive continually.

Let’s broaden the application:

  • How many times shall my parents sin against me, and I forgive?  Continually.
  • How many times shall my spouse, sin against me, and I forgive?  Continually.
  • How many times shall my children sin against me and I forgive?  Continually.

Forgiveness does not mean

That we agree

With another’s sin

Against us

Or that we dismiss it

As unimportant.

Nor are we to

Compromise our

Christian convictions

Or become a

Codependent doormat

And allow people

To walk all over us.

What forgiveness does mean,

It mean that we will make the

Choice to forgive the sin

Of that someone.

Now maybe you’re asking, “How in the world is that possible?  How can I forgive and not bear a grudge against this person?”  We’ll get to that in a moment but first let’s note a second thing about forgiveness.

2) We Must Forgive Compassionately. 

In our passage of Scripture for today, Jesus tells a parable about a king who had a servant brought before him.  The servant owed the king a huge sum of money; “ten thousand talents.”  In Bible days ten thousand talents was a debt no one could repay.  Today we might say the servant owed the king “a trillion dollars,” an amount the average person could never repay.

Because the king threatens to throw the servant into debtor’s prison, the servant falls down to his knees and begins cry out to the king, “Please, have patience with me and I will pay back every single penny.”  

And this moves the king to compassion.  In Matthew 18:27 Jesus says, “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.  

What great compassion that king had!  The servant could never repay the king, but the king forgives his debt anyway.  And the king forgives him at great cost to himself – It cost the king a trillion dollars.  He would never get that back.  Forgiveness was costly to him, but he forgave the servant.

Does this servant

Appreciate the compassion

Of his master’s forgiveness?

Does he understand

The great cost to this king

In his forgiving him

This huge debt?

If he did,

Then he would

Extend the same

Forgiveness to others.

He will forgive just

As he’s been forgiven.

But that’s not what happens in this parable.

The servant goes out and finds someone who owes him “a hundred denarii” (Verse 28).  Compared to a trillion dollars, a hundred denarri is like twenty bucks.  The servant himself had been forgiven a trillion dollar debt and the first thing he does is find someone who owes him twenty dollars.

After finding the guy who owes him twenty bucks, the ungrateful servant takes him by the throat and demands: “Pay me what you owe me!”  Then the man falls down and cries, “Be patient with me and I’ll pay it all back” – which sounds familiar to careful hearers of the parable.

But the ungrateful servant has no compassion.  So the king summons the servant and says, “You wicked servant.  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  I had compassion on you!”  He adds in verse 33, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?”

Jesus’ point is clear: Just as the king had forgiven compassionately, so should the man have forgiven compassionately – and so should we forgive others compassionately.

So what happens next?  Verses 34-35 tells us, “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.”  Notice a key truth – Jesus calls us to forgive “from the heart.”  He says in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.” Forgiveness, complete forgiveness, flows from the heart.

3) We Must Forgive Completely.

What happens if we don’t forgive others completely?  According to the parable, we are “delivered to the torturers.”  Whatever else this means we can infer that it is a punishment we bring upon ourselves, maybe in the form of physical or emotional pain.

When we fail to forgive others,

We hurt only ourselves.

But the real issue is, How do we forgive others?

Certainly not on the strength

Of our own abilities.

That would prove disastrous.

Rather, Christians are

Empowered to forgive

On the strength of the gospel.

Here’s how the Bible puts in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

So we look to the cross and remember that we have been forgiven a huge debt that we could never repay.  We could never atone for our sins.  No amount of good works could come close to “paying what we owe.” We identify with the wicked servant in the parable.  We understand that God is our King, our Master, who has forgiven us.

Here’s the point . . .

When you really know forgiveness from God,

You will have little difficulty forgiving others.

When God forgave our huge debt, He forgave it at great cost to Himself.  It cost God the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  It cost God to forgive you and me.

The reason we can forgive

Others continually, compassionately,

And completely is because

God in Christ forgives us

Continually, compassionately,

And completely.

But if we don’t really know that forgiveness in an experiential way, we’ll spend the rest of our lives like that wicked servant, always demanding others “pay what they owe.” 

We can forgive others continually, compassionately, and completely – Why? – Because God in Christ forgives us continually, compassionately, and completely.

This is God Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



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