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INTRODUCTION:

 

When the Scriptures say about Jesus that He came to "bind up the broken-hearted" (Isaiah 61/1), I believe that this is a reference to the emotional life of individuals. Healing our damaged emotions means that God is committed to us becoming emotionally whole and mature. Christianity is, above all else, a faith about right relationships - vertically with God and horizontally with our fellow human beings.

 

Way up near the top of the list when it comes to emotionally saboteurs is the emotion we call "resentment". Some would call it "unforgiveness". Others would use the term "bitterness". For our purposes, let us simply define this emotion as "the inability or unwillingness to forgive another person/persons from the heart.

 

1.THE CALL FOR FORGIVENESS

 

Take time to read Matthew 18/21-35.   

Jesus is here giving some very clear and very disturbing teaching about the issue of forgiveness. Why do you think it is "disturbing teaching"? Much of the power of this parable will be lost if we miss the 2 teaching segments that precede it - the parable of the lost sheep with its emphasis on the seeking heart of God (vs.10-14) and especially the teaching on forgiveness (vs.15-20).

 

This last section seems to set the scene for Peter's question (v.21) and the response of Jesus in the form of this parable.

 

a. The Nature of the Servant's Debt - 10,000 Talents.

Some commentators estimate this amount to be something like $10 million. Regardless of the specific dollar amount, the point that Jesus is making is that his debt is impossible to pay. The underlying truth is that our debt to God is immeasurably beyond our ability to pay - even if we wanted to do so.

 

b. The Foolishness of Human Solutions - an extension of time.

This particular missed the point entirely when he requested more time to pay. Even if the span of his life was doubled, trebled or quadrupled, the debt would be beyond his ability to pay.Yet how many of us try to 'pay our debt to God' by appealing to our good works, best endeavours or personal merit.

 

c. The Wonder of God's Salvation - Amazing Grace.

The last thing that servant could have expected was, in fact, the very thing he was given. That immeasurable debt was cancelled by immeasurable grace and mercy. What he didn't deserve was offered to him in abundance. "Cancelled the debt" means that he was freed from debt and obligation. His master will never bring up this matter again. It was finished - as though the debt was never incurred in the first place.What an amazing, breath-taking picture of God's grace to us.

 

d. The Power of Human Resentment - refusal to forgive.

Despite the cancellation of his own debt of millions of dollars this servant refuses to forgive and cancel a debt of something like $20 owed to him by a fellow servant. What he had received in abundance, he now refuses to pass along the same grace. But when the master hears about this situation, he calls his unforgiving servant to account by asking a very probing question. Can you identify that question?

 

"Then the Master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matthew 18/32 33)

 

In an amazing reversal, the debt that was cancelled appears to now be re-instated!! (v.34) Is that possible? Can God withdraw forgiveness after he has granted it? Or is that reading too much into the detail of the parable?

 

The "punch line" of this parable has staggering implications for all who hear Jesus' words. "This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart". Could this be a mistranslation?  Maybe Jesus was having a bad day when He taught this parable?  We need to read Matthew 6/14,15 to see that this is not an isolated teaching.

 

"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".  

 

[2]  THE CASE FOR FORGIVENESS

 

Negative Consequences (when we choose not to forgive)

1. Spiritual - we effectively block God's forgiveness to us

2. Emotional - resentment becomes an emotional acid that just eats us up on the inside.

3. Relational - the person whom I resent now becomes my gaoler; I allow what they have done to determine my response and I become their prisoner. And usually they have no idea that this is what is happening to me!

4. Physical - that emotional acid that eats away at my well-being also undermines my physical health.

 

Positive Consequences (when we choose to forgive)

 

1. Spiritual - to forgive is to set the other person free because it cancels the "you owe me" attitude. It is also an expression of obedience because it reflects the spirit of Jesus.

 

2.Emotional - emotional healing can now begin. We are freed from the power of the past and can now live in the present.

 

3.Relational - barriers are removed, love is allowed to prevail.

 

4. Physical - there is now a more positive climate for physical well-being

 

[3]    THE BASIS FOR FORGIVENESS

 

"Why should I forgive? You don't know what they said/did to me. They don't deserve to be forgiven."  However, the basis of forgiveness is not determined  by whether or not the person deserved forgiveness. Where would we be if that was the case between us and God?   No, the basis of our forgiveness of others is God's forgiveness of us.Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.

 

"Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you(Matt.18/33)

 

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph.4/32)

 

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you". (Col.3/13)

 

Consider the following comments. Do you agree or disagree with them?

 

a.To choose not to forgive others proves that we ourselves have a defective view and/or experience of God's forgiveness of us.

 

b. Read Luke 23/34 - Only when Jesus withholds forgiveness from that person may we do likewise.

 

CONCLUSION:

We can claim to have forgiven those who have wronged us but sometimes the evidence may suggest otherwise. Here are six (6) helpful - but not infallible - guidelines that may help us assess the reality of our forgiveness of others.

 

a. Can we look back on the situation in which we were wronged and thank God for what we learned in that circumstance?

 

b. Can we now talk about the experience without feelings of anger, resentment or revenge?

 

c. If it's applicable, have we accepted our part of the blame for what happened to create that hurt? [Take care on this point - we may have had no responsibility for what occurred].

 

d. Can we revisit the 'scene' (the emotional or physical location) without negative reactions?

 

e. Can we actively pursue the benefit and welfare of those who hurt us?

 

f. For the purpose of self-justification, do we still need to rehearse with others the details of who and what hurt us?

 

Let's finish on this challenging note:

 

 Forgiveness means more than the absence of negative resentment; it means the presence of active love towards those we have forgiven.

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