Matthew 18:21-35 How the Gospel Informs Forgiveness

C. S. Lewis made this telling remark: “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”

Jesus told a story about a man who owed his boss a vast debt that in today’s terms would be something like $50 million. Somehow he had run up this enormous debt and somehow he had managed to spend all the money. When the boss demanded his money, the man unashamedly begged to be forgiven. He even promised to pay the money back. But the boss forgave him the whole debt. Just wiped the slate clean. Soon after that, the man who had been forgiven such an enormous sum saw a fellow who owed him a tiny debt—something like $100. When the fellow couldn’t pay, he had him thrown into jail. But people heard about it and told the boss who got angry and had the first man thrown into jail to be tortured until he paid back the amount that previously had been forgiven.

We are like the unforgiving servant. We stand before Almighty God with our sins piled up like a mountain. The mountain is so tall we can’t get over it, so deep we can’t get under it, so wide we can’t go around it. That’s every one of us. Our sins are like a $50 million dollar debt we could never pay in our lifetime or in a thousand lifetimes. We come as debtors to God, come with empty hands, and we say, “I cannot pay.” God who is rich in mercy replies, “I forgive all your sins. My Son has paid the debt. You owe me nothing.” Then we rise from the pew, leave the communion table, walk outside the church humming “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.” And before we get to our car we see a man who has done us wrong and we want to grasp him by the throat and say, “Pay me right now!”

No wonder we are so tormented. No wonder we are so angry and bitter. No wonder we have problems. No wonder our friendships don’t last. No wonder we can’t get along. We have never learned the secret of unlimited forgiveness.

Some of us have been deeply hurt by the things others have done to us. People have attacked us, maligned us, mistreated us, abused us, sexually assaulted us, ridiculed us, belittled us, publicly humiliated us, physically beaten us, and they have done it deliberately, repeatedly, viciously.

We will forgive to the extent we appreciate how much we have been forgiven. The best incentive to forgiveness is to remember how much God has already forgiven you. Think of how many sins he has covered for you. Think of the punishment you deserved that did not happen to you because of God’s grace. Jesus said, “He who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). Your willingness to forgive is in direct proportion to your remembrance of how much you have been forgiven. And you will never be set free until you forgive.

Ray Pritchard

Heart Preparation
The damage to God’s glory by our sin is determined not by the severity of our sin but by the value of God’s glory. -Jerry Bridges

Read Matthew 18:21-35. Is there someone to whom you are harboring bitterness or are unwilling to forgive? Considering the quote by Jerry Bridges, is there anyone who has to more damage to you than you have done to the God of all-surpassing value? So why would you hold on to unforgiveness when you have been offered infinite grace? And is there someone you need to forgive and be reconciled to?

Posted on: November 13, 2014 - 10:00PM

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