The Fate of Not Forgiving

Matthew 18: 21-35
Dn 3:25,34-43 / Psa 25

Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me?
(Matthew 18:21)

Our hearts must bear no enmities,
No place for hate or prejudice;
As we forgive our enemies,
We become God’s channels of peace.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him a huge amount was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you back in full.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a smaller amount. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Reflection

What our Lord Jesus meant when He answered Peter to forgive “seventy-seven times” was not to count the number of times that we must forgive our neighbors (or enemies) when we are wronged. Forgiveness must have no limit because that is the standard set by our Father in heaven. Jesus forgave His torturers up to the very last breath of His life. In fact, His last petition to the Father before He expired on the cross was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This very last act was the concrete manifestation of His command to all His disciples: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly father” (Mt.5:44-45).

Although Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants,” the parable does not necessarily equate the king to God the Father. It is clear in this parable that our Lord was relating a story about a pagan king, because the Jews did not practice selling persons to slavery to repay debts. Our Lord was merely pointing out through this parable the wages of injustice, and the dire consequences of not showing mercy when we ourselves have already been given mercy. “For the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (Mt.7:2). How can we expect to be forgiven of our many sins if we cannot forgive a small wrong done to us? As Jesus taught us when we pray to God, our Father, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt.6:12).

Forgiveness defines our transformation and ensures our eternal journey to God’s kingdom. Until we have come to forgive all the wrongs that we received in our life, including our own mistakes and indiscretions, we have not yet fully prepared ourselves to meet our Creator.

Father God, You forgive us in grace, and not because of anything we do to earn or deserve it. Remind us always that the offenses we endure are nothing compared to those Your Son endured on the cross for the payment of our debts. Amen.

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