“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” —Matthew 6:14-15
Jesus tells a story where a servant owed the king an enormous amount of money that he could not repay. He fell to his knees and begged, “Be patient with me and I will pay back everything” (Matthew 18:26). The king had compassion and forgave the servant of his debt. When the servant left, he saw a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money and he grabbed the man, choking and demanding, “Pay back what you owe me!” The fellow servant said, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back” (Matthew 18:28-29). Did we notice that Jesus used the exact same statement of the servant before the king and the fellow servant who owed a small debt to the servant?
Jesus is not speaking about someone who is unrepentant and refuses to listen. Jesus is describing someone who is repentant, who knows the full weight of their sin, and is begging for mercy, but is met with the madness of the person choking him. The unmerciful servant does not let go and throws his fellow servant into prison until he can pay back all that he owes. The unmerciful servant’s sin, his lack of grace and mercy catches the attention of the community and they are outraged. They go and tell the Master everything that happened. When we hear these things, we probably think to ourselves, how is it possible? If we turned the mirror on ourselves, we see how easy it is to slip into that place and latch on to an offense, not letting go and demanding justice.
The master called the servant in and said, “You wicked servant. 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). God—the Master—expected His subjects to be like Him; if He poured grace, mercy, compassion and goodness in their life, He expected them to treat others the same way. Jesus was not talking about a cheap grace, a wishy-washy reconciliation; the forgiveness He extended to us came at a price.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian duty to bear.” It is through our union and our fellowship with Jesus that we come to understand that He helps us to bear the pain and anguish and embrace the forgiveness of others. Jesus embraced the full price of forgiveness, a costly forgiveness. Just as the forgiveness He extended to us was not a wishy-washy affair, may we reflect our Master in the world and forgive others as He has forgiven us.
Dear Jesus, thank You for bearing the cost it took for me to be forgiven of my sins. Help me to reflect who You are through the way that I forgive others. Amen!