Matthew 18:23 Jesus said “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
These stories connected to the practice of forgiveness always get my attention. Jesus paints a picture of someone who has received complete forgiveness from a mountain of debt, yet refuses to forgive someone else a trifling amount. The disparity is ridiculous and terribly unjust. The King of the Kingdom then holds the unjust person accountable.
I’ve been a pastor for over 20 years now and have seen many things that keep us from living the life God intends for us. At the top of the list has to be unforgiveness – the inability to let go of the pain, anger, and resentment arising from another’s actions. I was talking with a woman recently who has struggled for much of her life from the fallout of being sexually abused as a young girl. For many years she turned to drugs and alcohol as a means of dealing with this unresolved pain. There is more to the story but you get the idea. How do you forgive someone for this kind of devastating abuse, especially since the offender, her own father, is now deceased? I’m not sure it’s humanly possible. Truly.
Nevertheless we prayed together about this. We prayed that she would draw on the well of forgiveness God has extended to her through Jesus Christ. We asked the Lord to give her grace to forgive her father, to release the pain and grief and anger to the Lord who will hold her father to account one day. I’m not sure what happens now with this woman. Pain that deep is hard to release in the time it takes to say such a prayer, but this morning I’m praying that the Lord will complete this work in her, finally setting her free on the inside.
Lord let it be so. Amen.