Matthew 18:21-35 NASB
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
In Matthew 18 Jesus talks a lot about relationships and the key to good relationship is the spirit of humility. Whether at home, work, school or church; it always helps when we have a spirit of humility. In verse 7 Jesus said that it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come. We live in a fallen world. People do and say things that hurt others. You cannot go through life and not be offended by something that someone says or does: it is going to happen. Offenses are going to happen: they are inevitable Jesus said. So what do we do with our brother offends us? What do we do when someone injures or hurts us? We forgive! It is the only way to maintain a lasting relationship. When you love someone, forgiveness is much easier.
I have four children and nine grand children. I am sure at some point and time they have sinned against me but I have no record of any such offense. Love doesn’t keep records. When Jesus began to talk about making things right with your brother, Peter understood that He was talking about FORGIVENESS. Impetus Peter, always seeking the lime light: he comes to Jesus and ask, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter felt confident that Jesus would commend him for his willingness to forgive seven times but Jesus was not impressed. The Rabbis taught that men were to forgive three times. Peter had doubled that and added one for good measure. Surely Jesus was going to commend him for going the second mile but He didn’t. Jesus said to Peter, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. This is 490 times. Who could keep up with 490 infractions? That is the point Jesus is making: we do not need to keep track of offenses against us.
Recently, I heard of a father who had kept a record of every dime he had spent on the children he brought into this world. I don’t have a clue what I’ve spent on my children or grandchildren. You can search through my journals and records and you will find nothing because I have never recorded one thing. Love does not keep records. We need to forgive and I’m going to tell you why…
I. THE FIRST REASON WE NEED TO FORGIVE IS THAT WE CANNOT RECEIVE FORGIVENESS IF WE ARE UNWILLING TO GIVE IT
Notice what Jesus says in verse 35….My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” James 2:13, For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. Mark 11:25, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” In the midst of the model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Have you said something or did something in the pass that you need forgiveness for? No one wants to take ownership for our responsibility in the death of Christ but we are all guilty of His blood. He was crucified because of our sin. Do you need God’s forgiveness? On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Peter puts the death of Jesus on the Jews but we are all responsible. It is not only the Jews and Romans who are guilty, we are all guilty. Jesus died because of our sins and we need His forgiveness. I’ve been living 65 years and I’ve never met a person who did not need forgiveness.
Is it human to struggle with forgiveness? You better believe it! C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone thinks that forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” I have struggled with forgiveness more than once but if you are a child of God, forgiveness is going to win. A child of God is going to forgive because they know their need of forgiveness. Over 40 years ago, I bumped into a lady that told me she hated her son-in-law. I happened to know that she was a professing Christian and so I told her, “You are confused, you think you hate your son-in-law but you do not hate him, you are hurt and angry at him for what he has done to your daughter but you cannot hate him.” She quickly retorted, “I am not confuse, I do hate his guts.” I said, “Then you are confused about your salvation, you are not really saved. A Christian cannot hate nor refuse to forgive.” She never responded but I think she gave it a lot of thought and as far as I know she got along with her son-in-law perfectly until the day she died. If you hate another human being and you professed to be a Christian: you are confused about your emotions or your salvation.
Everyone needs forgiveness and everyone needs to be forgiving.
II. THE FORGIVENESS WE GIVE IS INSIGNIFICANT COMPARED TO THAT WHICH WE HAVE RECEIVED
Notice the drastic difference in the debts. The first servant owed his king 10,000 talents, at today prices, this is over a half billion dollars. Note, I said billion, not million. The lesser servant owed hundred denarii which is around $2,000. The first man could not have repaid his debt in 500 lifetimes. The second man, earning a standard wage could pay off his debt in four months. The difference is so significant that there is really no comparison. Would you rather owe $600 million or $2,000? Here is the point: What Jesus is asking you to forgive is insignificant compared to what He has forgiven you. Your sin against Christ is far greater than anyone sin against you. Forgiveness is rooted in our relationship with and love for Jesus Christ. Unforgiveness is rooted in selfishness.
III. REFUSAL TO FORGIVE ENSLAVES US
This wicked servant put himself in prison. The king had already forgiven his debt. He did not go to prison for his debt, he went to prison because he refused to forgive. Warren Wiersbe says, “The world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving heart.” The wicked servant not only went to prison, he was tortured and tormented. The most miserable people you will meet on this earth are people who refuse to forgive, they are tormented night and day. Every waking minute they are imagining ways that their offenders should suffer and they do not realize that they are the ones being tormented and it is all their fault. I talk to a woman this week who is struggling to survive in an unpleasant marriage. Several years back, she made the mistake of confiding in him about her pass. Things that happened before she knew him. Thing that happened over 40 years ago but he refuses to forgive. She has forgiven the people who hurt her but he will not forgive. He has become so obsessed with pay back that he is miserable 24-7 and the people he despises are prospering. He is not only driving himself crazy: he is driving her crazy as well. All he has to do to be set free is let go and he refuses to let go. His wife is on the verge of despair and he is the cause of it all. He is destroying the very woman he professes to love because he is more concerned about revenge than he is her needs.
Several years ago I walked into a home were a man was in the process of dying. They were not members of our congregation but at the time a granddaughter attended our church and so I went out of courtesy to her. The room was filled with people and most of them I did not know, as I walked in one door, one woman got up and bolted out. I didn’t really pay any attention to her departure and it had no affect on my spirit because I didn’t know what was going on. Later, as I was living, her sister apologized for her behavior. I assured her that no harm was done because I was literally in the dark and had no ideal why she got up and left and did not dare ask her sister. I just got into my vehicle and left. A week or so later, I bumped into a friend who was very acquainted with this family and I told him what happened. He started laughing. He said, “Bro. Jack, you really don’t know what is going on do you?” I said, “I don’t have a clue.” He said, “Bro. Jack, that woman hates your guts.” I said, “That’s impossible, I have never seen this woman before, I don’t know her from Adam’s house cat.” He said, “She knows you and she despises you and that is why she got up and left.” To make a long story short, she had got hold of some gossip that was totally unfounded and she did what most do, she assumed I was guilty. She spent all that time hating me and I didn’t even know anything was going on. If you worship your popularity, you don’t want to be a preacher. Every God-fearing truth-telling man of God has to live with being hated. The young people have a term for folks like this…they call them “Haters.” You can almost pick them out just by the expression on their face. Don’t let hate and unforgiveness enslave you. Let it go and get free so you can live the rest of your life. This second servant ended up in prison being tormented and it was all his fault. He put himself in prison by not forgiving.