“The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ His master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. The king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart” (Matthew 18:23-28, 30, 34-35, NLT).
Forgiveness. It is necessary for our very survival. But we don't get it. Just like the servant in this parable we don't get the fact that we have no more debt. Because we don't understand that we are fully forgiven of all that we owe, we have trouble forgiving others. We don't get the fact that Jesus knew there was no way that we could pay our enormous debt so He paid the whole thing. We continue to try to collect “payment” from others who have hurt us by not forgiving them. In his book, “Healing of Damaged Emotions”, David Seamands calls this debt-collecting. We can't forgive because we can't grasp the fact that we are completely forgiven. So we hold on to a hurt or a grudge, and in the process our emotions are in debt to a debt we no longer owe because it has been paid in full.
“This whole debt system” Seamands imparts, “has been built into the human personality in the most incredible fashion. There is a sense of owing a debt, an automatic mechanism by which our built-in debt-collectors go to work. We seek to atone for those wrongs, to pay the debt we owe or collect the debt someone else owes us. If we feel anger at ourselves, we say 'I must pay in full.' Or if we feel anger at someone else, he or she must pay.” Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive those who owe us debts.” And that is what He did upon the cross. He forgave us our debts so that we can forgive those who have hurt us, and so that we can be free to understand that we were created for grace.
What happened in the last statement in the parable is the “shocker”, and it is what will happen to us if we don't forgive. We will be thrown into our own prison of hate and bitterness. “To the unforgiven and the unforgiving,” Semands writes, “God will be like a harsh and stern debt-collector.” Because we can't forgive, we will find ourselves in bondage to what Seamands calls the “Fearsome Foursome”–those inner tormentors of guilt, resentment, striving, and anxiety. Until we are able to receive, and live out God's unconditional forgiving grace and also impart that unconditional forgiving grace, we will be in bondage to debt-collecting and to those inner tormentors.
Over the next several days, I would like to explore the incredible fact of how His grace sets us free to be forgiven and to also forgive–to understand spiritually and emotionally that because He has set us free, we can set others free in grace and love. If in the depths of your heart you know that unforgiveness is something that you fight against–if you deal with those “Fearsome Four” inner tormentors that the enemy uses to keep you in bondage, God offers the grace and promise of His healing freedom.
“Owe nothing to anyone,” Paul wrote, “except for your obligation to love one another” (Romans 13:8a, NLT). “Give as freely as you have received,” Jesus taught (Matthew 10:8b, NLT). Owe nothing and be free! You shall give as freely as you have received. This is grace received and given. There is nothing better than living in its freedom!