Why should we extend forgiveness? What is our motivation to do so? Through the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18, Jesus emphasizes the importance and necessity of a GOD-centered understanding of forgiveness.
21 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?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Seven times is the common biblical number for completeness. The common Rabbinic maximum was three times, so Peter’s question comes from an already generous spirit. But Jesus exponentially increases this to 77 times, completeness of completeness, or “unending” forgiveness.
To put the monetary amounts into context, $10k talents = 200,000 years of servitude, while $100 denarii = 100 days of servitude.
What are common motivations to forgive?
- Some people forgive because they see it as the only way to move forward.
- Some do it for revenge — there’s nothing that our enemies will hate more than to be forgiven.
- Some do it for the freedom they personally feel.
- Some forgive for the good of the community, for harmony.
- Some do it show strength, bravery or peace.
Forgiveness is universally accepted as important and “good,” but what differs greatly is the motivation.
The Christian Motivation is different.
While all other views of forgiveness are MAN-centered, Christianity calls for a GOD-centered perspective.
- No other worldview, religion, or philosophy teaches an all powerful, holy being who offers unlimited forgiveness to anyone who asks him for it.
- While all those other motivations may be called “benefits” for the Christian, our motivation is WHOLLY different — we forgive because we know (heart knowledge) that God has first forgiven us.
- Out of the overflow of our recognition of God’s grace toward us, we freely forgive all who show genuine contrition even if they can’t or don’t ask it explicitly.
- So while in one breath it is a COMMAND, it is much more than that. — It is the logical necessity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ understood, accepted, and applied in our own life.
- If you do not forgive, then you not truly a child of grace, because being a child of grace means that love and forgiveness run through our veins.