From Jesus’ parable that is recorded for us in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18 verse 27 we are given the model for what Forgiveness is supposed to look like: The king took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. In Part I, I examined the first part of this verse: pity. In Part II we look at what it means to cancel a debt in relation to forgiveness.
If you want to understand forgiveness correctly, and even the whole parable, you need to realize the key is found in the size of this servant’s debt. The text (Matthew 18:21-35) tells us that this servant that the king forgave, squandered Ten thousand talents (think 10,000 bags of gold). Now all commentators point out that this is a ‘ginormous’ sum of money. The economic conversion rate would put this sum in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars. Some even suggest maybe even a trillion dollars. So this was no mere day worker. You have to think of the servant more as a head of state who through either mismanagement or corruption squandered a trillion dollars. Are you beginning to understand the enormity of cancelling this debt?
This servant didn’t just lose some money. He jeopardized the entire kingdom and it would have been just for this king to enslave the servant, his entire family and to seize what assets he had. This would not be done to cover the loss, that would have been impossible, but to simply punish. It would have been just on the part of the king to punish his servant for his actions.
But instead of doing that, the king canceled the debt. This was a huge act of forgiveness to say the least. HE forgave a debt that jeopardized his own kingdom.
So how does that work for us? Let me give you a simple example. I hate borrowing someone’s car. Because if I borrow the car and wreck it I know that I am responsible. But if I wreck it and the owner says, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll cover the cost.” It’s not that the payment goes away. It is the owner who is now absorbing the cost. He pays it himself.
This is exactly how forgiveness works. When someone wrongs you, when someone sins against you, there may not be a monetary debt but there certainly is an emotional one. Anyone who has ever been wronged knows this—that person owes you!
When that happens there are only one of two things you can do.
One is you can make that person pay. You can try to hurt them. You can gossip about them. You can slander. You can slice up their reputation, or when you see them, you can be cold. Or maybe you just withdraw your friendship, or you just berate them, or you really tell them off and you try to make them feel horrible. But when that happens, it is not that the emotional debt is being paid down. Rather it goes into you and you become like the other person. You are making the other person pay. But in turn it makes you bitter / self-righteous / cold. So what’s the alternative? You pay. How does that work?
You pay down the debt by identifying with the perpetrator, by seeking the person’s good. You absorb the emotional debt yourself. But fair warning, it hurts! But it will make you free!
Part I: The King took pity