If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15
Over the years, I have asked many groups a hypothetical question that I have adapted from Matthew 18:21-35. It is the story of the unmerciful, or unforgiving servant. The servant was forgiven for a massive amount of debt. Yet, when given the opportunity to forgive another of their much, much smaller debt by comparison, he refused to be merciful. Here is how I have adapted it:
Suppose you owed someone $1,000. They call you and say it is time to pay up. You simply say that you can’t pay it back and ask for more time. The person says, “You know what? Don’t worry about it. Your debt is forgiven.” You hang up the phone super glad at what just transpired. Later that day, you see someone and remember that they owe you $50. You say, “Hey, do you have that 50 bucks you owe me?” They use the exact same words that you used earlier with your creditor. They say that they can’t pay it back right now and ask for more time.
Now, here are the three options I usually have the audience choose from:
- Forgive them of the debt completely, especially in light of the fact that you were forgiven earlier that day for much more.
- Demand that they pay you back immediately.
- Tell them they have more time and to pay you back as soon as they can.
Before reading on, which would you choose?
The overwhelming majority of people that I ask choose option 2 or 3, with most choosing option 3. I would say maybe 20%, or 1 out of 5 people I ask choose option 1.
What does this say about us? If a person makes no claim to be a Christian, then I let them off the hook completely. They are pretty much only bound by the law of the land, their own conscience, or whatever else they choose to follow. But, if they claim to be a Christian, then they are bound by the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. He flat out says, “If you won’t forgive others, I won’t forgive you.”
In light of this, it is absolutely imperative that we understand just how much our Lord has forgiven us. The price He paid for me was extravagant. When I asked Him into my life, He completely paid my sin debt. This was a debt that I could not pay in a thousand lifetimes. How can I not extend the same grace to others that He has extended to me? How will the world ever see Christ in me if I don’t?
Every once in a while, I get this right and someone will ask, “Why in the world would you do that?” I get to say the most beautiful words that I believe exist on this planet, “Because Jesus has forgiven me.” It usually produces either an eye roll or a wonderful conversation.