The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Matthew 18:23-28, 30, 34-35
Not everyone deals with unforgiveness that defines their every waking moment, but some people are consumed with it. They can't offer forgiveness to others because they haven't allowed the grace of Jesus to transform their minds and soften their stony hearts. “When we fail to accept and receive God's grace and forgiveness,” David Seamands writes, “we also fail to give unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people.” When we can't forgive, we don't have healthy relationships. We end up in emotional conflicts that tear our lives apart. When we can't receive and give God's grace our lives end up in a vicious cycle of unforgiveness. It is so sad that the servant in the parable did not realize that his debt was completely canceled, and in his misunderstanding thought he still had to collect money in order to pay it off.
What if that servant had heard his master correctly? What if the knowledge of his new debt-free state had penetrated his mind and heart? Joy would have seized his heart. Peace would have settled fear in his mind. The exorbitant amount owed to the master could have never been repaid anyway, and that debt weighed constantly upon him. If only that servant had received the message that the master had wiped his slate clean! Jesus, our Master, wipes our slates clean. A miracle happens when the grace of Jesus seeps into the depths of our very being. The vicious cycle of unforgiveness ends. The unaccepted become the accepting. The unforgiven become the forgiving. The ungraced become gracious to others. Emotional conflicts that result from hardened hearts are healed. The Holy Spirit flows reviving and healing when we don't live with the heart of a debt-collector. If the servant had received his master's forgiveness, he would have also forgiven the servant who owed him money. He would have received the grace of the master, and easily passed it on.
When we completely allow the grace of Jesus to set us free, we are free to give His love away freely and easily with no reservations. We just love because He first loved us. However, those who refuse the forgiving grace of Jesus continue on debt-collecting like the unmerciful servant in the parable. Others “owe” them affection, love, security and affirmation, but since they feel indebted, guilty, resentful, insecure, and anxious–since they see themselves as being unforgiven and unacceptable, they become unforgiving and unaccepting.
Will I honestly assess myself this morning? Has His grace totally transformed my heart to the place when I realize that I am debt-free, and that I can pass along that freedom to others? Is there someone I resent–someone I can't let off the hook? Am I willing to accept responsibility for my own life and not blame anyone else for who I am? Or do I believe in my heart that someone caused my life to be the way that it is, and they “owe” me for what they have done to me? Do I really believe that if they had “paid” me I could have paid off what I owe? Do I really believe that would have freed me from the debt I could never repay? What I “owe” has already been paid by the grace of Jesus Christ! I don't have to I strive to pay off that which He has already paid in full.
God offers us freedom from the debt of our sin through the sacrifice of His son. At the cross Jesus took our sins, failures, and hurts into himself so that we might be free of sin's guilt. “God took what was the worst injustice,” Seamands writes, “and turned it into the most sublime gift man has ever known: the gift of salvation.” You can see an illustration of the complete forgiveness the cross offers in the life of Joseph who was treated so brutally and sold into slavery by his brothers. When his brothers were before Joseph needing help for their very survival, Joseph wasn't concerned about collecting a debt. He wasn't concerned about what they “owed” him. He knew that they were going to find it hard to forgive themselves so he said, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:19-20, NLT).
Jesus was brought to the position of the cross so He could save our lives! He has torn up our debt. We are meant to live debt-free! Where we love each other because we are loved! Where we accept because we are accepted! Where we grace each other because we are graced! Where, because we have freely received forgiveness, we freely give.