“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18: 32 – 35
I always stumble when I come to this passage. It’s the point of the parable about forgiveness, and follows Jesus telling Peter he has to forgive people not seven, but seventy-seven (or seventy times seven, depending on translation) times. So why this? The master (God) had forgiven this servant a huge sum. Why did he take it back?
The master had forgiven his servant in a spirit of pity, generosity and love, establishing a new and different relationship with him. When the servant then didn’t forgive his fellow, he rejected this new relationship with his master. He treated forgiveness as a weakness and was only interested in getting as much money as possible. He chose to use the law to get that money from his fellow servant, and that meant that the law then had to apply to him as well. God forgives us first, from generous love, and if we don’t forgive each other, but choose instead to insist on our rights and justice, then we are choosing a life of law rather than a life in relationship with God.
Prayer: Father God, please show me where I am holding onto grudges and not forgiving people. I pray for your generous love and forgiveness to flow through me and help me to forgive these hurts.
Action: if God shows you somewhere you’ve hurt someone, take the first opportunity you can to apologise to them.