I hope and pray that this letter finds you well. Last week we looked at the issue of sin and this week we look at forgiveness. Peter enquires of Jesus how many times we should forgive someone else in the church if they sin against us. The issue is not just about the offence to oneself but also concern for a fellow Christian’s own discipleship. Peter then offers the answer of seven times. This was based, I am reliably informed, on the fact that Rabbis had debated this question and come to the conclusion not more than three times, so really Peters answer is quite generous. Jesus’ reply in light of this is even more surprising with seventy seven times. In other words your forgiveness should be unlimited.
Jesus then goes to give a parable to the disciples to illustrate the point. The text for both these accounts can be found in Matthew 18: 21-35. The parable concerns a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When the records were checked the one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought before him. A talent was the highest unit of currency and ten thousand the highest Greek numeral. So the amount is absolutely massive, one commentator states it could be in region of a billion pounds, another nearly half of the annual revenue of the nation of Egypt at the time. Either way the amount is huge. The servant cannot pay and so he is sold along with his wife and all their possessions. The servant begs for mercy and the king has compassion on him and out of pity releases him from all his debt.
However, that same servant then goes and demands payment for a debt that is owed to him by another servant. This amount is a hundred denarii which equates to one six-hundred-thousandth of the first debt which shows just how harsh the servant was after he had been forgiven so generously and comprehensively. The second servant begs for forgiveness but the first refuses and has him thrown into prison until his debt is paid. The fellow slaves are rightly horrified by what has happened and the king is alerted to the turn of events. The first servant is summoned back and the king in his anger has him tortured until the debt is paid. The Greek word means torturers whose role it was to put pressure on the person defaulting and their family. This does not mean Jesus is advocating the use of physical violence to settle a debt. The graphic and vivid parable shows us very powerfully the message Jesus wants to convey. We have been forgiven so graciously by God through what Jesus has accomplished on the cross and so whilst acknowledging this we in turn should forgive others however, hard this may be. If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. We are forgiven children of God, let us claim that forgiveness and be forgiving to others in turn.
May our merciful God, the One who forgives, bless us now and always,