Bible Studies for Life
Matthew 18:21-28, 32-33
Because we live in a fallen world riddled with dysfunctional relationships, forgiveness becomes a non-negotiable – an essential. In 1970 a movie catchphrase caught on for that generation — “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
That has got to be one of the most relationally ignorant statements ever made! Love means that we ask for forgiveness often because we value the health of our relationships.
In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter refers to a first-century catchphrase that said, “If you forgive three times you’ve done more than enough. If it happens again, let them have it.” When Peter doubles the number and adds one, he seeks to impress Jesus with his generous forgiving. Jesus stops him short and shares a parable showing us the full measure of forgiveness.
This is the story of a man who was forgiven much but forgave little. This man owed what was equivalent to $6 billion dollars. It would take him several lifetimes to pay off such a sum. After earnestly begging for forgiveness he was forgiven a debt he could never repay (vs 21-27).Immediately after this life-altering pardon, he discovers a fellow servant who was unable to pay him what equaled three months of paychecks. When he was beseeched by this man to delay payment, the much-forgiven man threw him into debtor’s prison (vs 28-31).
This didn’t sit well with others, so they reported the wicked, unforgiving servant to the master who replaced prior mercy with deserved justice. The key word is “mercy.”
Mercy is never earned or deserved. If it is, then it ceases to be mercy. Mercy is not getting the stern justice that one deserves. The point of the parable is that we must show the same mercy to others (“seventy times seven”) that God has shone to us – even if we are hurt by them over and over again. Let me share with you three principles of forgiveness:
Forgiveness should be inexhaustible
Matthew 18 21-22
Every relationship you will ever have will require a huge amount of forgiveness. Peter’s question arose out of his own experiences in life – “Jesus, how often do I need to forgive jerks who falsely accuse, spitefully use, and intentionally abuse me with merciless repetition?”
Jesus’ answer is startling – “An infinite number of times!”
In Luke 13:3-5 Jesus tells his disciples that they must forgive over and over again even if the jerk commits the same offense again and again. Understandably their response was, “Increase our faith!’”
We cannot escape the need to forgive others; it is as inevitable as bugs hitting the windshield in the summer in South Georgia (a mess that won’t come off without intentional effort.
Forgiveness will be intense
Matthew 18: 23-27
The parable essentially teaches that on the cross Jesus took on the massive enormity of our sin debt (10,000 talents) that we should have paid in hell (eternal judgment) and offers us complete forgiveness.
Hell is a real place of torment, darkness, and loneliness that will last forever. Each sin must be paid for, either by us in hell or by Christ on the cross.
Forgiveness must be intentional
Matthew 18: 28-35
When we forget God’s mercy, we become hyper-sensitive to offenses and demand justice upon all who hurt us or those we love. This man had been forgiven, but his heart was not captured by the majesty of his master’s mercy.
This made him an unforgiving, hardened man untouched by the gargantuan forgiveness he had received. In the end, he suffered the justice he deserved and forfeited the mercy he received.
How is this possible? It is one thing to be offered forgiveness, it is another to fully receive it and for it to captivate our actions toward others.
Forgiveness is not easy. Some offenses are harder to forgive than others. The key is to fix our thoughts on the vast, limitless mercy it took to save the wretched person we are in this fallen world. Measure your forgiveness, not by the offense of others, but by the forgiveness that Christ has extended to you.