Just about the time I decide I’m old and completely devoid of any flexibility whatsoever, I somehow manage to get my foot stuck in my mouth. Not to brag, but sometimes I can even get both feet in my mouth at the same time. For me, at least, it’s easy to inadvertently say (and sometimes do) things I regret. What can I say; I’m a work in progress! The only helpful thing I can say is, “I’m sorry,” and then impatiently wait to hear the magical words in return: It’s okay. I forgive you. As anxious as I am to hear those words after yet another foot-in-mouth episode, I can’t help but wonder… How quickly do I say them to others?
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells the story of a king who was settling accounts with his servants, one of whom couldn’t pay the amount owed. Rather than sell the servant and his family to raise the money—an option legally available to the king—he instead forgave the servant’s large debt and set him free.
Apparently the servant learned very little from the king’s mercy, though, because he tracked down someone owing him an extremely small amount (a pittance compared to what the servant himself had owed the king) and had him thrown in jail when he couldn’t pay up! Hearing what the servant had done, the king did exactly the same: He reinstated the servant’s debt and sent him to jail. Jesus closes the parable by saying, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35)
The servant did nothing to earn the forgiveness of the king. And the king had every right to be angry with the servant and to place the consequences squarely on his shoulders by selling him to settle the debt. But, he didn’t. The only thing the king expected was for the servant to show the same mercy and forgiveness to those who needed it from him.
We can do nothing to earn the forgiveness of God. If you don’t hear anything else, hear that! Let that good news sink in! God’s love and mercy have already been extended to us, setting us free from our debt of sin. All God asks… all he expects… is for us to do the same for those who need our forgiveness. Peter asked, Lord, how many times do you expect me to forgive my brother who sins against me? Seven times? Jesus said, seventy-seven times.
I think I need to get started.
Lord, forgiveness doesn’t come easy for me. Let me feel the love and mercy and greatness of your forgiveness, then give me the strength to share that same forgiveness from my own heart. Amen.