Peter thought he was doing fine when he volunteered to forgive an offending brother seven times.
He wasn’t even close! Jesus told him the limit was seventy times seven, an infinite amount! We don’t have to work hard to imagine the look on the fisherman’s face. How was that even possible? Who had that much grace? While Peter was trying to do the math, Jesus told a story to illustrate what He meant.
A King and His Servants
In the process of settling the accounts with his servants, the king called each one forward. One poor soul owed 10,000 talents and was unable to pay. This was the king’s money given to the servant to invest and bring a profit. Not only was there no profit, the king’s money had disappeared. The king demanded that the servant and his family be sold to replace his losses. At this decree the servant fell on his face at the feet of the king and begged for mercy.
‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
His genuine sorrow broke the heart of the king. He was moved to forgive the debt and set the servant free. Wonderful. But the story takes a tragic turn.
When the Forgiven do not Forgive
The forgiven, unproductive servant was owed a small amount by another servant. The forgiven one went out and found the fellow who owed him money and demanded immediate payment. The fellow who owed the debt also pled for mercy but was given none. In fact the first servant laid hands on him and demanded payment. Servants could not keep a thing like this quiet. The injustice of all this grieved them deeply and they told the king about it. The king was also grieved.
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?
He sent the wicked servant, at first slothful and finally cruel, to the prison to be tortured until all was repaid.
The crowd and the disciples with them waited in silence for Jesus to make application of this horrible story. Finally, it came:
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Peter forgot about the math and began to calculate how much he had been forgiven.
We cannot measure spiritual things with physical tools. Offences to not add up in the same way we count apples. One offence can outnumber a whole bushel. Acts of forgiveness are the same. We have to calculate spiritual things with spiritual tools. Whether we have been much offended or little, our forgiveness should be greater by a large measure. When we compare the forgiveness we have received from Christ, so lavish, so abundant, so readily granted, how can we measure out our forgiveness in lesser amounts?
It isn’t easy to do. The wounded heart wants to tend its wounds. The offended mind never wants to forget the hurtful words spoken. But we are more than mind and heart; we are also spirit—that part of us that knows God. His Spirit is there and He helps us forgive and forget and go on to real joy.
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I 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.”
Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Lord Jesus, You have forgiven me! Help me be fast to forgive others. Keep me from sinful pride in my own spirituality; that is folly. Help me measure my life by heavenly instruments—grace, mercy, compassion. Don’t let me be hindered by grievances. Help me to let go of the bad things that have happened and to hold on to the good things. I want to press on for You, Lord Jesus, until I hear You say “Well done!” Amen and Amen.
When We See Christ
Words and Music: Ester Kerr Rusthoi
1. Oft times the day seems long, Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day!
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face, all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race till we see Christ.
2. At times the sky seems dark, with not a ray of light;
We’re tossed and driven on, no human help in sight.
But there is One in heaven, Who knows our deepest care;
Let Jesus solve your problems, just go to him in prayer.
3. Life’s day will soon be o’re, all storms forever past;
We’ll cross the great divide to Glory, safe at last!
We’ll share the joys of heaven: a harp, a home, a crown;
The tempter will be banished, We’ll lay our burdens down.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved