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The Importance of Forgiveness

And out of pity for him,
the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
Matthew 18.27

This is one of my favorite parables. It clarifies for me the importance of forgiveness (Jesus gives a warning in v 35, that if we are unforgiving, God will give us over to unforgiveness). And this parable puts into perspective the sins that I will be asked to forgive. In the parable, two servants owe a debt. The second servant owes a debt of 100 denarii. This equals to roughly one-third of a year's income for a day laborer. This is a significant debt. The first servant is put into a position, where he will need to forgive a debt equaling one-third of a year’s income.  This is important to see, because this is not an insignificant amount of money. This is helpful to my heart, because in the parable, Jesus assumes that we will need to forgive others their costly sins committed against us. There are some sins that will be hard to forgive, and Jesus knows that.

But Jesus also puts the 100 denarii into perspective, when he tells us that the first servant was forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents. This debt is enormous. Factoring in inflation and shifting changes in the precious metals values, 10,000 talents is equivalent to one billion dollars. The first servant was forgiven an enormous debt by the compassionate king, yet refused to forgive a significantly lesser debt from a fellow servant. Immediately, we can see why the other servants reacted to the unmerciful servant’s unforgiveness. They saw his harsh treatment of the second servant, and it was ghastly, especially in light of the great debt the first servant was forgiven. There was injustice in how the first servant didn't forgive, as he was forgiven.

It is the perspective that Jesus gives in this parable that helps us forgive. We are like the first servant. In Jesus, God has paid our debt. Our debt before God is astronomical. We could have never paid it off on our own. The debt was forgiven because of God's compassion, and Jesus did all the work to secure our forgiveness, by living for us and dying for us. When we focus on the great debt we have been forgiven, rather than the significant debt we need to forgive, we find the power to forgive.

This is why it is so very important for us to be reminding ourselves of the gospel, and of the forgiveness of the great debt we owed. Jesus paid it all for us. When others confess their sins, the lavish compassion of God towards us empowers us to forgive.

Tim Porter

Lead Pastor for the Mission


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