Today I find myself wondering, why is it that the thing we most desire for ourselves is the very thing we are the least willing to give to others? I am talking about mercy or forgiveness. This commodity, while in great demand, too often seems to be in short supply. Maybe this is because mercy can be quite expensive. Forgiveness is costly. Just ask Jesus.
I am reminded of the story told in Matthew 18 about a king settling accounts with his servants. One of his servants owed him ten thousand talents, an amount that could never be repaid even if he worked his entire life to pay off the debt. This servant begged the king for mercy and “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” (Matthew 18:27) Amazing! The servant was forgiven the debt he owed. He was free!
This makes what happens next in the story truly surprising. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. (a few dollars) . . . ‘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 you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.” (Matthew 18:28-30)
The man who had asked for mercy and received it, then turned around and refused mercy to the person who asked it of him. And to make matters worse, the debt the servant had been forgiven was huge, insurmountable actually. The debt his fellow servant owed him was so small as to be insignificant by comparison. And yet he couldn’t even show mercy for such a small debt or offense?
I think of what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Jesus has forgiven me the huge debt of my sin – “If I confess my sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive me my sins and purify me from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Why can’t I then find it in my heart to forgive those who have sinned against, hurt, wronged or offended me?
Giving mercy isn’t optional for those of us who have received mercy. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)
And that’s exactly how the story in Matthew 18 ends. Remember, the forgiven servant refused to forgive his fellow servant, instead having him thrown into jail. We pick up the story there, “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 turned 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 18:32-35)
So, there it is. We most desire to be treated mercifully by others, but we are not willing to extend that same mercy to those who have wronged us. Peter asked this question of Jesus, ” ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.’ ” (Matthew 18:21-22)
In other words, there is no limit on mercy. In Colossians 3:13, I am instructed to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you (I) may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (me).”
My debt has been forgiven. Jesus paid it on the cross by shedding His blood to pay my sin debt. Forgiveness is costly. Jesus paid that cost and set me free. That’s the other thing about forgiveness – it sets us free – both the forgiver and the forgiven are set free when mercy is given. I may not always feel like forgiving those who have hurt me, but simply remembering how God has forgiven me, allows me to do what I otherwise might not be able to do on my own.
I never have to worry about running out of forgiveness. My Heavenly Father’s supply of mercy is limitless. “His mercies never fail. They are new every morning;” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Lord, I so desperately desire Your mercy, may I never deny mercy to anyone.
sincerely, Grace Day