Forgiveness is a tough issue for many of us to deal with, whether we think so or not. Many relationships fail and falter due to unforgiveness. Bitterness finds its roots and food in unforgiveness, causing not just harm to the relationship it started in, but a deep root that effects the person withholding forgiveness.
Recently we did a series on Forgiveness with our Middle School students where we had our leaders share their stories of unforgiveness, bitterness and ultimately the healing power of forgiveness. It was powerful!
The last week of the series, I shared my own story of pain and bitterness. I shared how my parents divorce caused me to be angry at my mother for years. I shared how in many ways the ways I was hurt by my family caused me to have deep rooted bitterness and all the while I had thought I was free because I thought I forgave...until I was hit by the truth of God.
One Sunday Night, I was in a Bible study of sorts and the story of the unmerciful servant was being talked about.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-25 ESV)
I shared the entire account here because it is a powerful message on forgiveness. Taking a deeper look at the story that Sunday night I realized the disparity. The first man owed so much, that he could never repay it. It was a debt so high that to make any kind of recompense he, his wife, his house and his kids would need to be sold. In fact, to earn simply 1 talent, an average person would have to work for about 20 years! So, to pay off 10,000 talents is similar to billions of dollars.
The man begs for mercy and forgiveness and he receives it from the master. One has to think: what did this guy do to owe so much and how in the world could the master forgive such a huge debt? The master had pity and forgave.
Then, the craziest thing happens...the man who was just forgiven, who just got to keep everything he was about to lose goes out and seeks payment from someone who owes him money. He finds the guy and demands payment by choking him! This guy owes him the equivalent of no more than $100, and he's choking him.
The man who owes begs with the same words the man now owed used to get his debt erased (which was MUCH higher remember). The now free man doesn't accept the mans plea and throws him in jail...over $100!
When all of the truth of this story hit me, I realized I was the wicked servant and I was holding a grudge over $100 when God had just forgiven me an unpayable debt! I had a mountain of sin, a mountain of misdeeds, a mountain of brokenness that he has forgiven and I couldn't let go of some family brokenness. I held my mom responsible and held it over her head for so long. In that moment, I felt the Spirit nudge me to let it go, so forgive. So, I listened...it wasn't easy.
I had roots of bitterness in my life that caused me to be an angry, arrogant jerk of a person. My unforgiveness gave the enemy a hold of my heart for years. I struggle with forgiveness now, its not like I've conquered it...but I realize the absolute suffering that unforgiveness can bring.
Who are you holding $100 over? What sins have been committed against you that you haven't forgiven? I know some of you reading this have far greater sins against you than others...but not forgiving gives that person and their sins power over you still! God desires to free us, to set us free from the bondage we can get ensnared into...will you let him set you free?