Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled 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?’ 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.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
Forgiveness is no joke in God’s Kingdom. Jesus states several times throughout his ministry that if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts toward others, “our Father will not forgive us” (Matthew 6:15). Ouch. Jesus takes unforgiveness seriously and as followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore this teaching.
What does God’s unforgiveness mean exactly? Does this mean God is an unmerciful God and unwilling to act kindly toward us if we don’t cooperate with him? Or does this mean when we don’t cooperate in the area of forgiveness we, as children of a merciful King, refuse his Kingdom values and therefore, cannot taste it for ourselves? I propose the latter.
Our resentful behavior will be held against us by our Heavenly Father much like a good parent withholds reward from his/her child acting out of character and out of alignment with family values. We are the children hurting when we refuse to forgive. We are the ones jeopardizing our experience of the trust and intimacy with our Heavenly Father when we don’t extend his Kingdom values to the world around us. We are the immature who are missing out on tasting the goodness of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus emphasizes forgiveness because our human relationships affect our relationship with God. When we forgive, we draw close to the only God who forgives and when we walk in resentment, we separate ourselves from the source of forgiveness – and with it his life and blessing.
So, let’s take forgiveness seriously today. I’m sure everyone of us has someone to forgive – whether it’s a major trauma or minor infraction. It’s inevitable. We’re human. But let’s first stop to check in with our souls. Do you feel distant from God today? Get honest and tell God where unforgiveness is creating a barrier with him and receive his forgiveness so you can continue extending his forgiveness to those around you.