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Forgiven… and Forgiving

(Published in Pentecostal Evangel, March 24, 2013)

A servant owes a king 10,000 talents, a talent being the largest Hebrew monetary denomination. The servant cannot pay this enormous debt. He pleads with the king to spare the sale of his wife, children, and goods in the open market in order to make partial payment of his debt. The king shows compassion on him and forgives the obligation! The servant is forgiven!

This is a beautiful picture of our own forgiveness. It speaks of the enormity of our debt of sin, our inability to pay the debt, and the free grace of the King (God). Hell-bound, we too have been forgiven because Jesus died as a perfect Offering and was accepted by God as the Substitute for our sins.

But this is only the first part of the miracle to which Jesus’ parable points.

Jesus’ parable was in response to a question from His disciple. In Matthew 18:21, Peter asked Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother, seven times?”

Contemporary rabbis taught that the limit was to forgive three times. On the fourth time, an offender was not to be forgiven. Based on such teaching, Peter was being generous. He felt he was exhibiting the height of charity!

But Jesus’ response, leading into His amazing parable, was a staggering figure. He told Peter to multiply his offer 70 times. Jesus was really saying that forgiveness is unlimited!

The servant in Jesus’ parable was forgiven an astronomical debt. On the other hand, his fellow-servant owed him 100 denarii. By one estimate, the fellow-servant owed a little less than one-millionth of the first man’s debt. But the first servant hardened his heart and would not forgive the debt. He threw his fellow servant into prison!

The first debtor was not about to build his life on the grace he had received. He refused to share grace with another. Consequently, the king consigned him to the tormentors.

To place ourselves back in this parable, we experience torments of our own whenever we refuse to share with others the forgiveness God has bestowed on us. With unforgiveness, we cut ourselves off from the Holy Spirit’s life and joy.

Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV).

What a staggering statement. Forgiveness from our Heavenly Father is contingent upon our forgiveness of others!

Jesus further connected forgiveness with our daily spiritual life: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26, NKJV).

God has given us the joy and honor of showing to others the same grace He has shown to us. When we do, we receive blessings ourselves. Our lives continue to swell with His joy as we draw closer to Him by living in obedient forgiveness toward others. But holding grudges and resentments only hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

How about the believer’s corporate worship? How does forgiveness or its lack impact the follower of Christ among other believers? Jesus addressed this area of our faith life as well.

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24, NKJV).

Are you holding on to hurt feelings, betrayal, grudges, pain, and agony over past wrongs? Pain so easily turns to bitterness of soul—your real joy vanishes. You still pray. You still read the Scriptures. You still visit the house of the Lord. You still sing the songs of Zion, but the zing is gone—the pain is so deep.

An offense can blind your spirit and stunt your growth! Take Jesus’ words to heart. Leave your gift at the altar, if you remember someone has something against you. Leave your worship songs, church attendance, offerings, and otherwise acceptable gifts and ministries, and be reconciled with your brother or sister. Make peace, then return to the altar. There, God will receive your offering! There, you will receive the blessing.

Remember you have been forgiven by God of a great debt you could never pay! If you are again to experience the joy of the Spirit, you must take the initiative.

What practical steps can you take if you have these feelings of betrayal, bitterness, hurt and anger?

First, pray. Settle the matter with God. Ask His forgiveness for your broken fellowship with Him.

Second, ask for God’s grace to forgive from the heart the offending party. It is not a matter of feelings, but of love for the Lord and obedience to Him. It is a decision. We respond to the Spirit’s wooing and to faith in God’s Word.

Third, pray for the person or people who have offended you. At first, it may be without any emotion. The grace of God will be given to you as you pray in faith and obedience to seek the highest good of another. Your prayer will grow into a true sense of God’s love, a love of the Spirit. God will honor your faith and obedience to His Word.

Fourth, go to the person, if possible. Write the letter, make the phone call, or do whatever is appropriate to clear the slate. You may need to take another person with you to resolve the issue. Make a genuine effort to bring about reconciliation. If that individual refuses, your conscience is clear. If the person is deceased, present the matter to God and cast your burden on the Lord.

By faith, receive grace in your heart and forgive. Your pain may linger, but that pain can draw you to the Cross and the Spirit’s comfort. Forgiveness will draw you into a new phase of intimacy and fellowship with Christ and with the Holy Spirit.

Forgive, for you are forgiven!