By Ian Cotton, retired pastor
In these days of COVID – 19, we need to learn forgiveness. Peter asked Jesus, “When my brother sins against me, how many times should I forgive him? Seven times?” Matthew 18:21. The rabbis limited forgiveness to three. Peter extended it to seven, the number signifying perfection. But Christ taught that we are never to become weary of forgiving. Not “Until seven times,” He said, “but, until seventy times seven.”
He told a parable of a king’s dealing with his servants. Some controlled vast sums of state money. One owed the equivalent to 60,000,000 day’s wages. He had nothing with which to pay, and the king ordered him to be sold with all his possessions. But the terrified man fell at his feet and begged, “Have patience with me, and I will pay it all.” The lord was moved with compassion, and forgave the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a mere hundred days wages; he took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe.” And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and begged, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay all.” But he would not forgive; and cast him into prison until he should pay his debt.
When his fellow servants saw what was done, they told the king who called the unforgiving debtor, said to him, “You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me: you should have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?” And he was put in prison until he should pay his debt.”
The king’s pardon represents a divine forgiveness of sin. Christ is represented by the king, who, moved with compassion, forgave the debt of his servant. Sin is the breaking of the ten Commandments (1 John 3:4) and man was under the condemnation of the broken law. He could not save himself, this is why Christ died for our sins, and to all He freely offers His blood-bought pardon.
“If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 1 John 4:11. “Freely ye have received,” Christ says, “freely give.” Matthew 10:8.
In the parable, the whole debt was canceled. And that servant was soon given an opportunity to follow the example of the king who had forgiven him. The mercy shown him he did not exercise in dealing with his fellow servant. The small sum owed to him he demanded, and carried into effect a sentence similar to that which had been so graciously revoked for him.
Many today manifest the same spirit. When the debtor plead with the king for mercy, he had no true sense of the greatness of his debt. He did not realize his helplessness. He hoped to deliver himself. “Have patience with me,” he said, “and I will pay thee all.” There are many who hope by their own works to merit God’s favor. They do not realize their helplessness.
They do not accept the grace of God as a free gift, but are self-righteousness. Their own hearts are not broken and humbled on account of sin, and they are exacting and unforgiving toward others. Their own sins against God, compared with their brother’s sins against them, are 600,000 times larger; yet they dare to be unforgiving.