Our world is in trouble isn’t it? It just seems like everything has become a huge mess. Everywhere we look we see conflicts of all kinds. People destroying other people with bullets and bombs, people bent on conflict and retaliation, countries rattling their sabers threatening reprisals and military action, political pundits throwing verbal grenades at various people groups and at each other, broken personal relationships, domestic violence and abuse, marriages and families being destroyed through divorce, and all the while our children are being forced to grow up way too soon as they are neglected and abused.
Our media doesn’t help. Much of our television, music, movies, and online content has distorted God’s good creation through making the absurd and perverse the standard. Dysfunctional relationships and families are made out to be acceptable and normative. Social media outlets are filled with jabs and jibes of destructive rhetoric and rants promoting every possible view with no grace toward any opposing view whatsoever. People are left angry, frustrated, literarily assaulted, defriended and alone, holding on to grudges as they stare into painful screens of narcissistic one-ups-manship in what Viktor Frankl observed as the “existential void” of man’s search for meaning.
The upheaval and chaos of strained relationships
In my mind, at the heart of all of this upheaval and chaos throughout our world is humanity’s inability to forgive and restore one another. Even in our community there are many family relationships that are strained and broken because of unresolved issues of forgiveness. Perhaps there is conflict in your family. Perhaps you have a strained or broken relationship with your mother, father, son, daughter, or some other extended family member.
Perhaps you are experiencing unresolved conflict with your spouse and even now you are trying to figure a way out of your marriage. Perhaps you are having trouble forgiving people who have hurt you time and time again in the past and now you have become cold and embittered toward them. Perhaps there are people at your place of work, school or even in your church who you are relationally separated from because there exists an unresolved issue of forgiveness between the two of you.
We are in desperate need of wise counsel from God’s Word in order to learn how we should live our lives the way God intended for us to live. We can learn a lot about forgiveness through what Jesus had to say about it. In the Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive Him? Up to seven times?” At first glance it seems that Peter was simply asking Jesus, “Forgiving someone seven times is pretty good isn’t it? Surely, there’s a limit on the forgiveness that we extend to people who have offended us, right?” I’m sure Peter thought he was being quite religious, benevolent, and even spiritual by extending forgiveness to someone “up to seven times.”
Getting the math right
But, how did Jesus reply? In the following verse Jesus said “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face when he heard this? Basically, Jesus informs Peter, “Dude, you have the decimal in the wrong place, try forgiving 490 times.”
Upon seeing Peter’s reaction, Jesus brought the point home to Peter by launching into a parable about a king who began to settle accounts with his subjects. One man was found to owe the king an incredible amount of money and was subject to being sold into slavery. The man had no ability to pay the debt and so he fell on his knees and begged the king for mercy saying, “have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” Unexpectedly, out of compassion for the man, the king forgave the man the entire debt.
Now wouldn’t it have been great if this story ended here? A man had a huge debt that he couldn’t repay and then he was wonderfully forgiven this debt and he went on his merry way and lived happily ever after, with great gratitude and appreciation toward the king and everyone he came in contact with. But that didn’t happen. When the man went out from the king he found one of his fellow countrymen who owed him a very small amount of money and he “seized him and began to choke him, saying, “pay back what you owe.” His fellow countryman begged the man with the same words with which the man himself had begged the king just a few moments before, “have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” But the man would not forgive the countryman his debt. As Jesus explains, when the king heard about the man’s treatment of his countryman, he was outraged. The moral of the parable is we need to be completely forgiving of others based on the complete forgiveness we have received from God.
Washed whiter than snow
By the way, this is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for you if you have put your faith and trust in Him as your personal Lord and Savior. Like the man in the parable, we owe a debt that we can’t pay. But the good news is Jesus took upon Himself our debt of sin, shame, and guilt and paid our penalty of death, the debt that we should have paid for our sins. The Bible states that as we put our faith and trust in Jesus our debt of sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west and our hearts are washed whiter than snow whereby we are completely forgiven by God’s grace.
We need to understand that by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior we have received unmerited favor from Him as He completely forgives our entire debt of sin through dying in our place once and for all. Because of Jesus’ love and compassion toward us we really should be living lives that demonstrate thanksgiving toward God and forgiveness toward others in every way.
How can we receive so much forgiveness from God and then turn around and not be forgiving of others? Is your life a demonstration of forgiveness toward others based on your gratitude to God for His wonderful gift of forgiveness? Or are you still holding on to your grudges? Collect postage stamps, coins, if you wish, but don’t collect grudges. Lay your grudge aside. Return to your King and seek His forgiveness. Go and grudge no more.
A man once made the comment to John Wesley, “I never forgive.” Mr. Wesley wisely replied, “Then, sir, I hope you never sin.” What a different world it would be if we all lived our lives in a way that demonstrated a forgiving spirit toward others out of a great thanksgiving to God for the forgiveness we have received through faith in Christ.