Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Kingdom of Forgiveness on Earth

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Peter thought he would be doing pretty good to forgive someone seven times. Jewish rule required only three times, while Peter was offering seven times. But he was asking a loaded question — and it backfired on him!

“Seven times isn’t nearly enough, Peter. Try seventy times seven” (my paraphrase). Jesus wasn’t quantifying forgiveness (forgive 490 times). No, He was saying that there is no limit to forgiveness. Then to drive the point home, He likened the matter of forgiveness to the kingdom of Heaven on Earth — it is vital to our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. (Matthew 18:23-27)
See how great a debt this man was forgiven. Ten thousand talents was an enormous amount of money. One talent equaled about 6,000 denarii; ten thousand talents was worth 60 million denarii. A denarius was about one day’s wage. If a man labored every day of his life, he would have to work over 164,000 years to pay off such a debt. But that is how much this steward owed his master — and that is how much he was forgiven.

Now, we ought to think that one who was forgiven such a debt would be willing, out of love, respect and gratitude toward his master, to forgive the debt owed him by another. But such is not the case.
But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. (Matthew 18:28-30)
This steward, who was forgiven the debt of 60 million denarii, was completely unwilling to forgive the debt of 100 denarii (one 600,000th of what he himself had been forgiven). The forgiveness of his master did not penetrate his heart. He did not let even a tiny bit of the kindness shown to him flow through him to someone else.
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matthew 18:31-34)
The master had forgiven the great debt owed him, but he did expect that the compassion he showed his servant would be reciprocated toward others. As Paul said, “Owe no man anything except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). That is the only proper debt we should have. Because of his unwillingness to forgive, the servant reaped a hard harvest of suffering and shame.

Now consider carefully Jesus’ conclusion to the matter:
So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. (Matthew 18:35)
Notice that forgiveness is first a matter of the heart. God has forgiven us a great debt, more than we could ever pay, and He intends for it to work throughout our heart like the leaven of love. When we are unwilling to forgive others, we are rejecting the work God wants to do in us, instead of letting divine love have its perfect way. God will not let up on us until we repay the debt of love and forgive those who have sinned against us.

Do not hinder the flow of forgiveness from heaven to earth. Let your love and forgiveness be without limits, and so let the heartbeat of your heavenly Father change the world through you. It is vital to the manifestation of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.