Monday, 23 May 2011



There is a background to this question.   Among the debates of the time was the question of how often to forgive.  Many prominent rabbis said three times was the limit—an early version of our three strikes laws.  Peter no doubt thought himself generous by saying seven.  Our Lord, in hyperbole, sets no limit.
To make the point clear, he tells him a story.  It's a familiar one to most Christians, but read it again.  There are perhaps some points in here that you missed.
·         Do you see that the king "began" to settle his accounts?  He did what we would do.  He started with the biggest debt first.  So indeed the servant represents the very worst of sinners.
·         See the difference:  the servant asks only a little more time to make the payment.  The king grants him forgiveness of his debt.  We as sinners dare not ask for more than a little respite, but the mercy of God is greater than our courage.
·         "But when the servant went out" - in other words, on his way out the door he finds the second servant.  There has been no time to forget the mercy shown.  Is this not the hardness of the human heart?
·         "Fellow servants" - the passage is set in the context of a discussion of church discipline.  Perhaps this might even be applied for refusing to forgive!
·         The king calls him "wicked" - but only after his refusal to forgive.  Not his debts, but his heart is shown.
·         The king has tried kindness;  now he must resort to punishment.  God wills that we learn forgiveness from his example to us.  But if we will not, then comes punishment.
·         That punishment is eternal;  for how is this debtor to pay when he is in jail being tortured?  So one may see a picture of hell.
We are to show our brothers mercy "from the heart."  This is not a command to forgive a certain number of times, keeping careful record.  Nor is it a ritual of forgiveness, but the pure mercy of God flowing through the human heart.  The primary duty of man is the imitation of God, whose mercy endures forever. 
Is there one this day for whom you have no forgiveness?  Read this again.  The words are plain, the truth simple.  If you will not forgive, you will not be forgiven—forever.

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