Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan. “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’ “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt. “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt. Matthew 18:23-34
I see how this plays out. Let me illustrate this by what I envision.
One day, God allows me to stand on the precipice of heaven. I see the incredible landscapes, but more than anything, I see the King of Glory in all of His radiant beauty. I cannot look at him for I am unclean in His presence. I cry out above the din of the angelic worshippers. “Lord, my sin! I want to be with You but I am a condemned woman and have no access to Your kingdom.”
“What if I forgave everything you’ve ever done against me?” He asked.
“Would You really wipe away all my offenses?” The thought is too outrageous. Knowing how great the chasm between Him and me, I am hopeless that such forgiveness would exist. Yet, I ask again out of desperation. “If that is possible, please do it. I repent. Please forgive me.”
Jesus comes close and whispers in an intimate way. “I will forgive Your sins and erase Your offenses. I declare You holy, Christine. One day soon, You will come and live with me here. It’s a sure thing.” Overwhelmed by His mercy, I return to my life.
Sometime later, someone close sells me out without a thought. The wound is unexpected, extremely personal, and sends me into a chasm of pain. The betrayal was senseless and no matter how hard I try to figure out the evil done against me, I can’t. I hear the King of Glory whisper in my ear. “Forgive them, as I forgave you. Remember the vastness of your offenses against me.”
But I don’t connect with the memory as I should. My anger is too stirred up against my nemesis and I feel the need for swift justice. “I know! I’ll withhold forgiveness and turn my back to them.” I say to myself. “I will decide when they’re really sorry. Until then, I will make them pay.”
The degree of another’s sin against me, no matter how heinous, is nothing like the degree of my sin against God. The key to being willing to forgive others outrageously, just like Jesus forgave me, is to stay in touch with my own fate without my King’s mercy. Jesus said it this way, “He who has been forgiven little loves little. But he who has been forgiven much, loves much.”
Oh King of Glory, My King of glory, show me again what I would be without Your salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen