26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. Matthew 18:26-27 (NLT)
Matthew 18 from verse 21 onwards gives us an insight into an unforgiving servant who having borrowed money from the king (his master), found himself in a position where he was unable to pay back his debt which, at this point, had transpired to ‘millions of dollars’ (:24).
In verse 26, we see this same man, when summoned before the king; bow himself and beg for mercy. The arc here is the master’s response – he had ‘pity’ or compassion for the man, released him and went further to forgive the servant’s debt. Now, this shook me. In modern times, wouldn’t the response we’d expect be for the master to have compassion on the servant, release him and perhaps offer a debt reduction?! I mean, if I were to find myself in a similar position and go to, let’s say, Barclays… wouldn’t the most they would give me be a debt reduction? I mean, they are a business after all and they’ve got coins to make.
But what shook me (despite not being the overall moral of this story) is that we see the master go above and beyond and forgive a debt of millions of dollars. In which reality does this happen, please?! I mean even in the case of myself, if someone owed me millions of dollars, could I let them go scot free and lose my hard-earned money?! But I suppose that’s what we’re to learn about God in this passage.
His compassion is so great that it surpasses human understanding, and even (to an extent) human expectation. Imagine showing up in court, fully expecting to be shown no mercy, and being told that there’s no case against you and you’re free to go? What grace, what love, what mercy! And it’s this same mercy that God expects us to show others. In verses 21-22 of this same Matthew 18, we see Jesus lay down the standard. We are to forgive others seventy times seven times. To constantly extend this grace and mercy to people as the master did for his servant is what God expects of us. It’s a tall order but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it’s very much do-able. Why? Because we’ve been forgiven by God, and also benefitted from the forgiveness of others in our lifetime, and the Bible lets us know that it’s he who has been forgiven much that can love much and go ahead to freely forgive others.
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:47 (NLT)
This shows me that forgiveness is actually an expression, and extent, of love.
Not only is this servant forgiven but the master goes above and beyond to wipe off all his debt. Not only are we forgiven but our debt (which is death – the wages of sin is death) has been wiped off. In the same way, let us ‘wipe off’ the debt of anger, unforgiveness and the like that others ‘owe’ us. Let us show them mercy and wipe off the debt. And let us sow instead love and mercy like the Master has done for us; and expects us to do.
Father, I pray that as I strive to be more like you in everything I do, that you help me to show love and mercy to those who have hurt me. Because you have forgiven me of so much, help me to show even more love and forgiveness to those who have hurt me.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!