by Eric Dunbar
What does it mean to forgive? There are several reasons why you should forgive. To forgive is to excuse someone for a committed offense. But we all know that forgiving someone of an offense can be a difficult task. Forgiveness is a divine attribute, and it is something that we must choose to do. Because of what Christ did at the cross we can receive forgiveness for our sins, but even that is a choice, as we are creatures of free will. We can either receive or reject the gift of forgiveness through faith in Christ.
Surely you have been wronged by other people, so you know how easy it is to become angry and vengeful against someone who has wronged you. But if you belong to Christ, you should know that our Savior is against such behavior. God loves you dearly; He loves the people who commit offenses as well. If you can’t forgive someone who has offended you, do you really expect that God will forgive you when you offend someone else? Of course in your defense you might say something like “You don’t know what that person did to me. I have a right to be angry with them. And while your defense might sound logical to you at the moment, it will never stand up in the kingdom of heaven.
Forgiveness has always presented a stumbling block for humanity, that is why it is important that you know why you should forgive. Most people will forgive you of an offense once or twice, but three or four times – never! So how many times should we forgive someone for offending us? Jesus’ disciples had obviously given some thought to the subject of forgiveness. No doubt they wondered, at what point they should say enough is enough. So one day, Peter decided to ask Jesus about forgiveness. He asked,
“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:21-35).
Forgive because your debt has been paid
The first reason we should forgive is because we were forgiven a debt that we could have never paid. Christ paid our debt in full at the cross. Hence, the kingdom of heaven operates on the principal of forgiveness. It is God’s will that we live our lives based on this principal.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray that the kingdom of heaven would be manifested, and that God’s will would be done in our lives as it is in heaven. As He taught His disciples about forgiveness, He tells them a parable about an unforgiving servant to teach them how the kingdom of heaven operates through forgiveness. The “certain king” mentioned in the parable is God, and we (followers of Christ) are servants of the king.
In today’s money, one denarii is the equivalent of one day’s work. One talent is equal to 6,000 denarii or 6,000 days wages. Assuming that one day’s wages is $100, it would take an ordinary laborer about 16 years to earn one talent which is equal to $600,000. The servant in this parable owed his Master 10,000 talents; it would taken him 160 years to pay his debt of 10,000 talents. And although this servant owed a debt that he could never repay, his Master showed him compassion, and was merciful toward him, forgiving his debt.
Forgive that you may be forgiven
Because Jesus paid a debt that we could never pay, He expects that we forgive others as He forgave us. Therefore, we should not be like the ungrateful servant in the parable who, after being forgiven by his master, went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii (100 days work, or the equivalent of $10,000) and assaulted him, demanding that he pay what he owed. And even though his fellow servant begged for mercy, he still threw him into prison and vowed to leave him there until he had paid all that he owed.
To forgive is a choice. There’s an old cliché that says “what goes around comes around.” It’s another way of saying “you reap what you sow.” The unforgiving servant had every opportunity to show mercy and compassion to his fellow servant, but he chose to be selfish; he chose to forget the mercy that was shown toward him for a much greater offense. Don’t hold someone captive to your own selfish pride. Before you harden your heart against someone else, think back over your life and remember the many times that God forgave you when you didn’t deserve it.
Forgive because you are forgiven
Imagine a man being beaten beyond recognition, until his flesh is torn from his body. Having handfuls of hair snatched from his face and repeatedly punched in his face. For several years he had been telling people that he was a king so they made a crown of 6 inch thorns and shoved them into his head. They continually struck him on his head and spat on him. In front of crowds of people, they stripped him of his robe and put a fabulous garment on him and mocked him as a king (John 19:1-16). As if this cruel torture was not enough, they put a cross on his back and led him up a hill where they would nail his hands and feet to the cross and hoist it high on top of the hill for all to see.
This must have been a horrible ordeal for him. The very same people whom he healed were shouting, “Crucify him!” This man was Jesus, and he endured all of this cruelty for you. You might be wondering “Why did he do it?” Jesus endured this torture because he understood the true meaning of forgiveness. Even as he hung on the cross he called out to the Father and asked that He forgive those who had done this to him (Luke 23:34). Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow. With his life he demonstrated why you should forgive. The lesson he taught is simple: Forgive because you are forgiven.