THE PARABLE OF FORGIVENESS

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THE PARABLE OF FORGIVENESS

(Matthew 18: 21–35, NKJV.)

Reflecting on this passage in the scriptural verse above, I see a connection between God, I and my neighbor.

Personally, I believe that the meaning of the phrase — to forgive — may not completely be understood until it has been practicalized. I confidently say this because the Holy Spirit who continually deals with me on this subject, has helped me change my perspective through certain experiences I have had.

This parable begun with Peter asking Jesus the number of times it was necessary to forgive his brother who kept on sinning against him. For context purposes, Jesus had spoken about certain things prior to this parable including managing misunderstandings within the church (c.f. Matthew 18:15–17).

Thus, Peter’s question was a follow-up to what Jesus had earlier said.

Having established this, let us look critically at some points below:

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness can refer to the act of letting go of resentment and anger towards a person who has hurt or done wrong against you. It implies the act of giving up completely, or without reservation, negative emotions that one may harbour against ourselves or other people. Forgiveness can also mean the act of cancelling a debt.

How Does Forgiveness Affect and Involve Me?

Every true believer is a beneficiary of God’s forgiveness and mercy. No one who has come to Christ can boast of a relationship with the True God without acknowledging the work that Jesus did on the Cross for mankind, as He paid the ultimate price by taking upon Himself our iniquities so that we can be saved. Because of Jesus and the shedding of His blood, we now have access to forgiveness of sins, redemption to the Father and riches of God’s blessings. We can approach God for everything and develop a relationship with Him without restrictions.

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Jesus used this parable (and many other teachings in the Bible) to emphasize our call to forgiving others just as God forgives our trespasses. Indeed, many of us see this as a hard thing to do. As long as we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He will help us overcome any challenge we may be facing regarding forgiveness.

We must also note that unforgiveness hinders our prayers. It can affect our deliverance, acceptance of the gifts offered to God as well as our relationship with Him. Harbouring bitterness can give the devil room to accuse us at all time (c.f. 2 Cor 2:10–11).

How Many Times Must I Forgive Another?

Jesus gave Peter the perfect answer to this, by stating seventy times seven. It is crucial to note that this is not a literal expression *(lest we go counting)* but a response He used to reflect the infinite amount of times we must pardon other’s faults.

A good friend once said something that stuck with me and I will paraphrase his statement — Hurt is something that we cannot escape as Christians. Though we are called to live selflessly, there may be times when backgrounds and personalities clashes may occur. In these moments, whether intentional or not, we have an obligation to forgive people genuinely and release ourselves from the burden of bitterness and pain.

When we read the parable, we see how the first servant failed to have mercy on the man who owed him. If we critically compare what he owed the master to what he was being owed, we will notice that his initial debt to the master was significantly higher. As I pondered on this, I realised that God is teaching us not to be entitled for we do not earn or deserve His forgiveness as it is freely given to all who seek Him.

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If we receive God’s mercy though we merit it not, we must obey His instruction to give what we have received to those around us consistently.

Where Does Forgiveness Stem From?

Forgiveness is born out of love. A love that dwells in us as carriers of Christ. A love that we must reflect in our dealings at all times. A love given to us as a result of God’s love for us. This love which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit is the catalyst by which we are able to let go of any hurt or negative emotion that may dwell in our hearts. *Forgiveness is not a mind action but takes place in the heart.* It is only by God’s power and work in us that we can truly exhibit His love we bear and translate it into our everyday lives.

What Forgiveness is Not

Some have misconstrued forgiveness and postulated that not maintaining a relationship with a person(s) equates not genuinely forgiving them. This is untrue as it differs from one association to another. Though it may remain the same between certain people, there is no guarantee that a relationship will exist as it were before an incident (that may have affected both parties) occurred.

It is possible to forgive someone genuinely and make a decision to keep some distance accordingly. It is also normal to maintain a close contact with an individual even after forgiving them. In both situations, the wisdom of God triumphs and must be applied in our dealings with our fellow humans.

Forgiveness does not mean a justification of wrong-doings nor support of bad actions. It is also not an excuse to cause others deliberate harm and display cruelty.

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Finally…

The subject of forgiveness in relation to human interactions cannot be exhausted in one teaching. There are many references to this topic that can be found in the Old and New Testaments.

Nevertheless, Jesus’ concluding statement in this parable is one we must be conscious and wary of. For we are cautioned that if we fail to forgive one another, we will be treated like the servant who received mercy from the King but failed to extend compassion and pardon to his fellow servant.

May Jesus through His Spirit aid and give us all the capacity to truly forgive. Amen.