God Forgives Us, We Forgive Others
This passage is often called “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” because that servant who had received mercy (forgiveness) by the Master, refused to show mercy (forgiveness) to his fellow servant, and he experienced consequences as a result. This is one of the quintessential teachings of Jesus, along with the Golden Rule and loving your neighbor. The whole message of the parable is to teach His followers that since they have received God’s forgiveness for their sins, they should in turn forgive others.
Is there a familiar pattern here? Think of the love pattern we’ve already seen: God loved us, we respond by loving Him. God loves others and expects us to do the same out of our love for God. The forgiveness pattern mirrors this: God forgave us, and He expects us to forgive others out of our love for Him.
So easy to comprehend, yet so tough to put into practice!
I heard a great story about a very young associate pastor who went around the church full of enthusiasm and “wisdom.” He seemed to have a knack for reciting the commands of Christ and then finding people who didn’t measure up to them and rebuking them. The senior pastor noticed this and gave his youthful subordinate a research assignment: Go through the gospels and list every command Jesus gave. Not teachings, not parables, but imperative tense commands only and have your report on my desk by 5 pm Friday. The young man thought this would be a piece of cake and set about making his list. After a day or two, he became discouraged; this wasn’t a piece of cake after all.
Jesus taught many things and gave us many principles to follow, but He gave very few imperative tense commands. The young associate pastor never quite completed the assignment, but he did learn his lesson, to the relief of those around him.
The commands that Jesus actually gave can summed up this way: Love God, love your neighbor as yourself, love your brothers and sisters, forgive your bothers and your sisters and make disciples. Of course, “make disciples” encompasses all of His commands and teachings in one act of love and mercy.
Jesus’ earthly ministry was nothing if not an expression of love; for in all that He did and said He demonstrated God’s love for us in action. He took away pain and suffering, granted forgiveness of sins and taught the Truth of God’s Word. He provided us with our model for living life as He went along, a model that if we follow will be very pleasing in God’s sight. Time and again Jesus brought a message of mercy saying that the time for God to judge had not yet come. If we are truly His followers, His love, mercy and forgiveness will be our hallmarks, for in this, the people around us will see Christ through us.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
This is a tougher concept to grasp, for it comes down to a judgment call: At what point will our refusal to obey His commands become a rejection of our covenant relationship with God? We know that when we sin, God will forgive us when we acknowledge our sins. Yet if we deliberately keep on sinning in the same way year after year, and continue to refuse repentance when will God say that’s enough? Theologians have been arguing about this for centuries, so we aren’t likely to settle it here, but there is one thing that is very clear, and that is that if we receive God’s grace in forgiving our sins but we refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us, we are rejecting the very grace we have received ourselves. Here are a few of the verses on this subject, no doubt you can add more to this list.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke6:37
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation Luke 11:4
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2 Corinthians 2:7