The Power Of The F Word.
Yes I’m talking about the F word again – forgiveness. So what is forgiveness? The dictionary says forgiveness is:
To pardon (pardon – to forgive, to excuse; remission of penalty)
To stop feeling resentment
To be merciful (compassionate; tender)
Here are some interesting quotes on forgiveness:
“the glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness”
William Blake (author)
“resentment is one burden that is incompatible with your success. Always be the first to forgive”
“always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much”
Oscar Wilde (playwright, poet)
It’s vital for us to understand that forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future.
Lets look at the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. Within this story there is an amazing revelation to all who dare to grasp it.
Then Peter came up to Him and said, Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? [As many as] up to seven times? 22 Jesus answered him, I tell you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven!
Peter is still operating in an Old Testament mind-set and wants to know when forgiveness can end and vengeance begin! I wonder if there is a little of that desire for revenge within many of us when we have been wronged. At the very least we want justice. Fortunately God’s idea of justice is very different to ours. Jesus shocks Peter with a new way of living – the life of constant forgiveness.
23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants.24 When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000],
25And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made. 26 So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything. 27 And his master’s heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt.
The king in this passage is a picture of God in our lives. In response to our calling on him for mercy over a debt that could never be repaid he is gracious and willing to both forgive the wrong done and cancel the debt owed. The debt affects not just us but our whole family. If God has been gracious to forgive us when we did not deserve it then what right have we to hold unforgiveness towards others.
28 But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe! 29 So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all ! 30 But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master.32 Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you? 34 And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed. 35 So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.
The servant, who received massive cancellation of the debt that he owed, demands payment for a pittance from a fellow servant. He had no mercy. He was then turned over to the jailers to be tortured.
The same master who previously had mercy then shows his wrath. That’s how serious unforgiveness is, not only does it displease our heavenly Father, it binds us up and we are tortured by it. We also imprison those who we hold unforgiveness against.
When we cancel a debt we recognise that we are ‘owed’ something. This may be a physical thing that has be taken from us, an emotional thing like dignity or self-respect, it may be a relationship that has been spoiled by another person. Whatever has been taken, we must cancel the debt as well as forgive. This means afterwards we can genuinely say ‘you don’t owe me anything’. We then let them out of prison.
It is remarkable how many people see a breakthrough in their relationships when the other party knows nothing of the legal and spiritual transaction that has taken place.
Good relationships and a clear heart are at the centre of what it means to be a Christian.
Let’s learn to apply the power of the F word.