Forgiveness and the Ungrateful Servant

I’ve been thinking about the parable of the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18. In this parable, the king graciously and completely pardoned one servant’s debt of 10,000 talents because he couldn’t pay it – an enormous amount. But then the first servant goes and threatens one of his peers because he owes a few hundred denarii. The first servant goes so far as to have him thrown in prison! Even though his huge debt has just been canceled, he still holds this little trifle against his fellow servant.

Obviously, we are the first servant, and God is the gracious king. This parable so clearly illustrates how ridiculous and hard-hearted it is for us to refuse forgiveness to those who have wronged us. It’s downright petty. We have sinned horribly and grossly against the holy God of the universe. We’ve been ungrateful after he has given us everything. We’ve not even paid attention to the one who created us. We love everything he hates. We’ve mocked him to his face by what we do. We’ve killed his only Son.

And yet, he forgave us this monumental debt! That is amazing. And it’s not as if God says, “Oh well, we all make mistakes. After all, I’ve done bad and hurtful things too, so I suppose I should forgive.” No! God doesn’t do anything wrong. He doesn’t “need” to forgive us to prevent himself from being a hypocrite. In fact, he would be perfectly just not to forgive us. But, he does. And even though I lose sight of it, I should live in continual wonder and thankfulness for that fact.

So, back to our relationships to other people. Here’s the thing: no matter how horribly someone hurts us, it will never even begin to compare to the magnitude to which we’ve offended God. For one thing, in human relationships, there’s a give-and-take. Someone may hurt me, but chances are I’ve done something to hurt them as well. Whereas God has never wronged us, and only shown us goodness.

This is a pretty ramble-y note. But this is what it boils down to: there is never any case where it is right for me to withhold forgiveness from one of my brothers or sisters. To keep a record of these wrongs is the worst kind of hypocrisy. It’s sinful and it’s petty.

God has been convicting me lately of my unforgiveness and bitterness – things that I didn’t even realize where there! But the more I see of my own heart, the more I realize how deep this sin goes. It will take the work of the Holy Spirit and a conscious battle every day to not let bitterness take root in my heart. But our God is faithful, and he supplies us with every good thing for doing his will. And his will is that we be sanctified, and be more like Jesus! And that is an encouraging thought.

 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

       Colossians 3:12-14

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