A Spirit of Forgiveness
Matt. 18:21 ¶ Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Matt. 18:22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
Matt. 18:23 ¶ “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
Matt. 18:24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him;
Matt. 18:25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.
Matt. 18:26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
Matt. 18:27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.
Matt. 18:28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’
Matt. 18:29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
Matt. 18:30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
Matt. 18:31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.
Matt. 18:32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
Matt. 18:33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’
Matt. 18:34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
Matt. 18:35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. That includes you and me. His spirit of forgiveness was the result of the overflow of the love that he had for all of humanity. His heart was broken over the condition of humanity and he came to do everything possible to reconcile us to him.
Unfortunately that spirit of forgiveness did not necessarily spill over into the church. Even in those early years an attitude of intolerance was creeping in. Of course religion had been steeped in the idea of following a strict set of rules and therefore legalism was the prevailing mind-set.
This conversation with Peter should not be surprising. He is wanting to know exactly how many times he has to forgive someone. Surely there must be a rule about forgiveness and the number seven sounds really good, since that’s the perfect number.
However, in light of the love found in Christ, seven is not the perfect number. In fact, Jesus’ response is an amplification of the need for compassion and forgiveness. It is not meant to be an exact number, but an exaggeration on Peter’s seven times.
Jesus then shares with him the parable about the man who owed his master money. The man begged and pleaded for forgiveness of his debt and out of love that debt was forgiven. Sadly, he was unable to show that kind of forgiveness to others.
Jesus wanted Peter and those listening in to understand the level of debt which had been forgiven in their own lives. God has shown us mercy and we are called upon to show mercy to others. This is his Spirit, the spirit of forgiveness that is to reside in us.
Sadly, one of the worst things that can appear in the church is a critical spirit. It becomes easy to get drawn into negative discussions which pick apart other people. Somehow this is human nature at its worst because often we are critical of others in areas where we ourselves are weak, and there seems to be a level of compensation and self-serving personal flattering occurring when we are quick to point out the faults of others.
In verse 33 Jesus speaks of having mercy. This concept of showing mercy has been tied to God’s nature of holy love. In other words, living the holy sanctified life means that we show mercy as our heavenly father shows mercy. We are holy as our heavenly Father is holy. When we are transformed into the likeness of Christ we are to act and respond in the way that he would act and respond. Therefore there is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive someone. Instead, our passion and desire is to seek and to save the lost, just like Christ.
The love of Christ consumes me and I am eternally grateful for his mercy. Therefore I must live in the world with his spirit of forgiveness being reflected in my life. I must be forgiving of those who sin against me. I must be forgiving of those who fall short from time to time. I must be forgiving towards those in leadership who are still being formed. I must be forgiving toward my spouse who just may not always get it right. I must be forgiving toward my children who are growing and developing. I must show forgiveness toward my friends who are working on being a reflection of Jesus. I must show mercy and compassion on a world who has not yet come to Christ because it’s my responsibility to reach out to them.
The spirit of forgiveness is an evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we respond like the slave whose debt was forgiven, but then go and punish others around us, we are not reflecting Christ and we are not living a holy life. Christ had come to change the paradigm. We were called to be like him and the spirit of forgiveness was to permeate every pore of our being. The mercy of God is to ooze from us and reach out to world that needs desperately to experience Christ.
Lord, I need your constant infilling so that I may drip with your Spirit. Amen.