“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins...” —Psalm 103:2-4
When we read Scripture, we come across many Bible verses that talk about forgiveness. Passages such as Colossians 3:13 tell us, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” As well, Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Yet, what happens to us if we choose not to extend forgiveness to someone who owes us a debt? Matthew 18:34-35 reveals the outcome of the unmerciful servant: “‘In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.’ This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” In Jesus’s story about the unmerciful servant, we are told with frightening clarity that, when we withhold forgiveness to others, wickedness takes hold of our lives and we become prisoners of our own bitterness. Even though we have been set free, we become the prisoner. When we refuse to forgive, we are the ones who are choking to death, suffering, thrown into prison and in danger because we are refusing to let go of the offense.
This unmerciful servant became a prisoner of his own stubbornness. When he was locked up in prison, he probably saw other people who owed him money and started to choke people down in prison. In the end, he became a bitter man latching on to the offenses of others because he failed to understand the gospel and the grace that he received.
Jesus was teaching His disciples that our ability to demonstrate forgiveness is attached to our experience of the gospel itself. The more we walk with Him, the more we declare a death to self and our own way. As we embrace discipleship rooted in His atonement, we take up our cross and die to sin. We are recipients of His mercy; therefore, we are His conduits of mercy and grace to others through His Spirit at work within us. We do not do this for Him; rather, we do this with Him, in Him, fueled and animated by His power at work within us. When we choose to hold on to hatred, it only quenches the Spirit and results in devastation.
There is a beautiful intimacy with Christ that comes into our experience when we take that journey of forgiving and releasing the debt of others. May we live in the powerful truth of Christ’s forgiveness that frees us to extend forgiveness to others.
Beloved Lord, thank You for Your power at work in me that allows me to let go of my own stubbornness, hatred and unforgiveness towards others. I want to be Your conduit of mercy and grace.