Have you ever considered the teaching of Jesus that goes something like this: God, please forgive me of the things I do wrong in the same way that I forgive those who do me wrong. When Jesus is talking on the mountain, he teaches us how to pray, and within that famous Lord’s Prayer we are challenged by these words:
6:12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
As we have… (seems to indicate that God acts in reaction to our action doesn’t it!). But perhaps Jesus is actually saying the opposite here, right? That because of the great love that has been poured out by God, that foundation of forgiveness welcomes us to do the same to those who have hurt us, like God has done to those who have hurt Him. However, Matthew returns to this teaching in chapter 18, and it is right after the passage about taking reconciliation seriously…
Peter wants to know how many times it is appropriate to forgive someone who has hurt you, or sinned against you. Jesus responds with his famous, “Not seven times, by seventy times seven times.” Some interpretations will read 77 times, but let’s face it…it was a lot more than Peter had in mind (and way more than we typically think we need to practice). Jesus’ answer is one thing, but the story Jesus tells to explain his answer elaborates on this teaching:
Jesus starts off by saying that the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to this situation that is about to unfold. So, we need to keep this in mind. A king is calling his debtors and collecting the money borrowed from him. A man owes the king millions of dollars, which he couldn’t pay back. So, the king ordered that all he had be sold, including his family, to pay for his debt. But the man begged the king for more time to pay it…and the king released the man and FORGAVE the debt!
So the man left the presence of the king a debt free man and at once went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. The man grabbed his fellow man by the throat and demanded to be paid immediately. The fellow servant begged for patience and more time, but the man would not extend any grace to the fellow servant. The debtor was placed in prison.
Well, word reached the king and the king was not happy. The king called in the servant who had been forgiven and said to him, “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” The servant went to prison.
Jesus summarizes the story by saying this: 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
How can we accept the forgiveness of God and not extent forgiveness to our own enemies? Why do we expect God to treat us better than we treat our fellow brothers and sisters? God’s grace and forgiveness make up the foundation of our grace and forgiveness. If we fail to offer it and practice it, then God will remove the foundation from its place, and we are left building our lives on something else…achievement, perfectionism, legalism, superiority…and needless to say that our efforts to build on these other,or foreign, foundations is not the building of the Kingdom of God.
Let us practice forgiveness and extend grace, so that God’s grace and forgiveness may be fully accepted and appreciated in our lives.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.