This morning, I read a familiar passage out of Jesus’ life: Matthew 18:15-35 (NCV). Something that I might have known before but forgot jumped out at me as I looked at the passage, the parable, and the context.
This passage starts with Jesus talking to His followers about forgiveness, and how they are to forgive. Peter jumps in with the question of how many times to forgive. Jesus basically says indefinitely (there really isn’t a cap on the number), and then Jesus proceeds to share a parable about two people who owed money. One person who owed a huge amount of money was forgiven, and the other one was not. What complicates the plot is that the one who was forgiven was the one who chose not to be forgiving.
Most times when I read this, I think the point is showing mercy when people have showed mercy to me. This is because it is usually pulled out of the context when it is shared. However, Jesus concludes by saying that the King represents God the Father and while He has a forgiving nature, He wants us to have that nature as well.
Making the Debt Personal
I’m sure many of you can see the implications and symbolism behind this illustration. We are represented by the servant who owed the king an unpayable sum of money. The sins we have committed and are still committing have grown the debt to an astronomical amount. God is so perfect and just that even one sin (something that we might think is small) is enough to break the bank and cause a deficit that we could never repay.
Why can’t we repay it? Because once an action has been done, it is solidified in history. We cannot go back and change it.
However, something else happened in history — something that also cannot be undone. Jesus came and paid the vast debt that we owed. He came, as the only person who could pay the debt, and paid it while we were still actively adding more to it. This act of debt forgiveness that Jesus started is something we must continue.
We don’t forgive because the other person should be released from the wrong they have done. We forgive because Jesus forgave us, because chances are great that the person could never really repay what happened because what happened is set in stone in history.
What Jesus’ Forgiveness Means
When Jesus paid the debt that we owed, it allowed God to look at the present only and still be just. It allowed all the people Jesus healed to be truly free and to “Go and sin no more”. It allows us the opportunity of a continual clean slate before God.
However, our choices and actions do matter. In reality, they matter for our salvation too, but not in a score keeping way. Our choices and actions in the present must choose Jesus. The future is yet to be written, and the past cannot change. The present is where salvation is. If you are in doubt, read Ezekiel 18, and pay close attention to the last half of the chapter, starting with verse 21. If you are in doubt, ask the thief on the cross, who deserved the death he was getting, but then chose Jesus in his last “present” moment. (Luke 23:39-43)
Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation, but instead it means letting go of the debt, allowing yourself to move forward with life, and letting the past be what it’s suppose to be — the past.
P.S. I had the honor of being invited to guest post on a friend’s blog yesterday. If you interested in learning about a profound spiritual truth that pop culture almost got right, be sure to check it out — and when you do, leave a comment and let me know what you think!