KEY TEXT: Matthew 18:21-22, 34-35 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven... And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
KEY THOT: Forgiveness is at the heart of the kingdom. In Colossians 1:14, Paul refers to this ethos of the kingdom of Christ "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Not just that we have received unconditional forgiveness from God in Christ but that we must also offer unconditional forgiveness to one another. When Peter asked if he should forgive a brother 7 times for the same sin, Jesus said not 7 times but 70x7 (490) times. Jesus is not saying that 490 times is the upper limit for forgiveness; rather forgiveness in the kingdom has no limit. The reason is forgiveness doesn't depend on the other person's action. Forgiveness is an attitude within ourselves as children of God, for it reflects the character of our heavenly Father who is "is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Psalm 103:8).
Jesus told Peter the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (vv.23-34) to show that the unforgiven is unforgiving. In the parable, the master forgave the servant of a debt of 10,000 talents (an impossible amount to pay back: one talent is 20-40 kg of gold or silver). But his words revealed he didn't understood the immensity of his debt, for he said: "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything" (v.26). Even though, his master finally decided to release him from all his debt out of pity (mercy), he apparently did not appreciate the master's grace in his heart. This is demonstrated by the fact that he could not forgive a fellow servant who owed him just 100 denarii (one denarius is about 4 g of silver, a typical day's wage).
The parable also teaches us that the unforgiving is unforgiven, for it ends with the master delivering this servant to the jailers. And Jesus concluded: "So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart" (v.35). If we want to experience total freedom from our "jailors" (could refer to anything that imprison us--demons, our sinful flesh or addictions), we must learn to forgive others. We won't experience total freedom from our jailors if we do not forgive our brother in our heart. For in Matthew 6:14-16, Jesus says, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
So, only the forgiven is forgiving and only the forgiving can be forgiven. When we refuse to forgive others for their transgressions against us, we violate the kingdom ethos of freedom and put ourselves in the hands of the jailors who would imprison us in our bitterness, anger and resentment. And these emotional poisons will kill us, not the other person.
Abba-Father, deliver us from unforgiving heart, so that we may experience your forgiveness in our lives. Amen.