Multiple Offenders

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in life is to forgive someone who repeatedly offends you. It’s much easier to pardon, or even overlook, an occasional slap in the face, but to forgive someone who has time and again hurt you seems unreasonable. Until, that is, the force of the parable which Jesus immediately told Peter has gripped us. One servant owed his king the equivalent of millions of dollars, and was about to be thrown into debtors’ prison, along with his whole family, but the monarch was moved by his pleas for pity, and the entire debt was cancelled. That same servant then went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him three month’s wages, but could not pay, and who begged him to have patience until he could clear the debt. But this ungrateful wretch threw his fellow servant into prison until the amount would be fully remitted. When the other servants found out and reported this dastardly deed to the sovereign, he said, “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 then handed him over, not to prison, but to torturers, to extract the last penny. Jesus concludes: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (18:35). Here’s point: The wicked servant saw the speck in his fellow servant’s eye, but not the plank in his own eye (7:3). So it is with us when we refuse to forgive those who have offended us. We have forgotten the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us out debts, as we forgive our debtors” (6:12), and the Lord’s explanation, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (6:14-15). The logic is simple: We will reflect to others our sense of God’s grace (Ephesians 4:32-5:1; Colossians 3:13). Failure to forgive multiple offenses demonstrates a deeper failure to remember God’s manifold grace towards us, and calls into question the very nature of our relationship to God as loving Father. Maybe we should focus more on what we owe God, rather than on what others owe us!