As we have gone through Matthew, our main focus has been on recognizing the words and actions of Christ and determining whether or not we must live by that ethic.
So we come to Matthew 18 and we find Christ talking about forgiveness with his disciples. This is a recurring theme. It’s not shocking that Peter would want clarification on what it entails. Peter is actually being quite generous by saying seven times. In Amos chapters one and two, we see God forgive rebellious city’s three times and only enforcing judgment on the fourth infraction. So Peter was actually more than doubling the amount of forgiveness that God would forgive.
But once again, Jesus takes something that the disciples have heard and turns it in a new direction, gives a radical new orientation to life. He even goes above and beyond in an almost exaggerated way of how many times to forgive. He tells us the parable of the unforgiving servant. This servant owed 10,000 talents – -a huge amount. 600 talents was the Roman yearly tax on all of Palestine. This was a debt that the servant could never repay. The seriousness of the situation was very real for him. It even affected his family. The servant begs for patience but the king goes over and above what was asked for. The king forgives the entire debt. Not half of it, he doesn’t refer him to tax consultants, he doesn’t put him on a payment plan. All of the debt – - paid.
So what does the servant do with his freedom? He uses it for his own gain. He uses it to make a profit for himself. His debtor asks for the same thing he did – -patience in repayment. But the servant refuses—-he doesn’t except half of it, he doesn’t refer him to tax consultants, he offers no payment plan. He goes over and above what was necessary.
This certainly doesn’t sit well with the king. The king understands that forgiveness must/should result in forgiving. How we forgive others is not what saves us but it is a marker that shows the work of salvation.
Much like I have to prepare to play the guitar on Sunday, we must be in the act of preparing to be forgiving. Let’s ask ourselves this question – -how many times should we love of our wife or husband or our kids? Seven times? 777 times? Or do we find that we actually live in a state of love for them? Should not be the same with forgiveness? It is hard to forgive in the moment. But what if we lived in a constant state of forgiveness? Always prepared to forgive? It is in doing this that we would remind ourselves that Christ has already forgiven us. That we needed forgiving.