The parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:21-35 begins with Peter effectively asking Jesus: how much are we supposed to let people get away with before we stop forgiving them? When Peter suggests that we should forgive ‘up to seven times’, he thinks he is being pious – surely seven times is very generous! Perhaps it was then a surprise for Peter to hear from Jesus that our forgiveness should actually be limitless: you wouldn’t be able to remember the count of the times all the up to seventy times seven.
Think back to a time when someone has wronged you – how did you feel? And, perhaps more importantly, what did you feel was the best course of action to take? It’s easy for us to get caught up in what the wrongdoer deserves; we justify the anger that we feel by going over and over the scenario in our heads. It can even get to the point where all we can think about is how to exact revenge in the best way.
In times like this, it is important for us to realise that we are the servant outlined in the Matthew passage, and we are mistaken if we think we are in the position of the master. Romans 3:23-24 tells us that ‘all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’ So then, we know that we, like the servant in the Matthew passage, have had a great debt wiped clean by grace. The grace of salvation means that we have not received what we deserve, but have received far better, thanks to the great price paid for us by the Lord Jesus. In the knowledge of such grace, are we then going to act like the unmerciful servant and dish out revenge on those who have wronged us?
The concept of forgiveness runs throughout the Bible and its importance can’t be underestimated. Though it’s much easier said than done, we must ask God to help us to become more Christ-like in our ability to forgive those who sin against us (Col. 3:13).
Giles Hickling, The Church of God in Manchester