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But now comes the part of the parable that is very confrontational. If what follows was spoken by anyone but the Son of God, I think I could rationalise it so that its impact was less staggering. Most of the parables of Jesus are "acceptable" in the sense that they do not wrench the ground from under my feet. Some are even heart-warming (eg. The Good Samaritan; The Prodigal Son/s).

Not this one. This parable about the unmerciful servant scares me no end! There are two aspects that cause me to pause suddenly and check my theology - thoroughly!

The first concept that rattles my theological cage is what the master says to the unmerciful or unforgiving servant and, more to the point, what the master did.

"When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him what had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?' 

The rebuke was very appropriate. That doesn't surprise me at all. But the next action of the master confuses me.

Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny.  (Matthew 18:31)

Do you see my struggle? I thought the debt - as huge as it was - had been cancelled. But now it has been re-instated. Could it be that the cancellation has itself been cancelled? Maybe I'm reading this wrongly. Surely this is not teaching us that past sin/s which we believe God has forgiven can be re-activated so that" every penny must be paid?"  Could it be that it's the consequences of our sin that are re-instated?  

As if that is not confusing me enough, I am stunned by the "punch line" of the parable.

"That's what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters in your heart."

 This statement is in perfect harmony with words that Jesus uttered recorded in Matthew 6/14

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

The forgiven must become the forgiving. Withhold forgiveness from others and it becomes our indictment which, in turn, sees us thrown into a prison of our own making, there to remain until the whole matter is resolved - if ever.

There are many kinds of prisons in our world and not all of them are made with iron bars and thick concrete. To not forgive my brother or sister from my heart is for me to go into a relational, emotional and spiritual prison and to throw away the key.

All things considered, I can again hear God saying, "Did you hear what I said?" Remember the expression that Jesus used recorded in Revelation?

"Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Revelation 2:7 NLT

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