The Freedom to Forgive
Everybody loves to be forgiven. Few love to do the forgiving. Forgiveness is difficult. I trust as you read this you can think of several things you need to be forgiven for. By God’s grace, there are surely people who love you and forgive you regularly. However, I trust at the same time there are several grievances you ought to forgive but can’t bring yourself to forgive. Take a moment as you read this to reflect: What bitterness or resentment am I not letting go? Who do I refuse to forgive?
Indeed, forgiveness is not easy. Yet, forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a short story, called a parable, to drive home in our hearts three reasons why his gospel message frees us to forgive others.
Your Debt Is Great
Jesus’ parable involves a fictional king who is settling his accounts with his servants. One indebted servant owed the king 10,000 talents—an absurd amount that would take countless lifetimes to repay. Out of pity, the king forgave the humbled servant’s debt. However, this forgiven servant, who himself had servants, did not treat his subordinates with the same grace. Rather, he in turn made merciless demands of repayment—a cruelty that made its way back to the king. In righteous indignation, the king exacted judgment on the forgiven servant who would not in turn forgive others.
This parable reminds you and me of the extent to which we have been forgiven. Like the servant, our debt before God is unpayable. Our sin separates us from God, the wages of our sin is debt, and we are in bondage to this debt forever. We must remember the extent to which we have been forgiven! Our debt was infinitely greater than any grievance or debt someone owes you today. The gospel frees you to forgive by reminding you of the extent of your debt.
Your Need Is Great
Back to the story. Consider the state of the servant. He has nowhere to turn. In his helpless state, he cried out to the king for mercy. Indeed, he fell to his knees—an act of humility. He implored the king—an act of desperation. This was no cool calculation. This was a man who recognized his need was great and he had no hope in and of himself.
So too with you and me as we stand before a holy God. We are utterly helpless. We have no resources, no pedigree, no excuse before the Father. Our need is great and just consider the extent to which God has met your great need. The gospel frees you to forgive by reminding you that your need is great.
God’s Grace Is Great
Let’s return to the story one last time. Consider the king who out of pity forgave the servant of his crushing debt. This forgiveness was astounding. If a man knocked on your door today and forgave all your debt—mortgage, credit cards, etc.—that massive forgiveness would pale in comparison to the debt this servant had to the king. Yet he forgave it with no expectation of recompense. His grace was great.
How much greater is God’s grace towards us! The gospel of Jesus teaches that Jesus came and paid it all. He found us in our sinful state and opened our spiritually blind eyes, saved our rebellious souls, and is transforming our wayward hearts daily. This is all of grace.
Indeed, the Christian gospel stands in stark relief against all other world religions primarily because it is from top to bottom a message of God’s grace.
Jesus paid it all,
all to Him we owe,
sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow