Jun 25, 2014

The Burning Coal of Unforgiveness

Matthew 18:23-35
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.'  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Forgiveness.  We all need it.  But it’s hard to give.  People require forgiveness.  No matter who you are, no matter how much a person loves you.  This parable shows us just how hard it can be to forgive someone.  If we are honest, all too often this story tells our story.

The forgiveness that Christ has given us is so huge, so undeserved, so costly, so overwhelming.  It’s amazing to me of what Jesus did not require in order to issue his forgiveness of us.

He didn’t wait for an apology.
He didn’t wait for us to feel bad about what we have done.
He didn’t ask us to try to make up for what we have done.
He didn’t give us the silent treatment until we realized that we have done something wrong.
You never heard from Jesus, “it’s gonna take me some time to forgive you, so I may need some space”
The truth is that none of these things could have ever earned even an ounce of forgiveness from God.  To forgive meant that he had to make the first move, he had to suffer the consequences of our foolish and damning sin.  To forgive meant that he had to pay the price.  To forgive meant he had to bear our condemnation and the weight of what we did.  He did everything, he took our sin, our foolishness, our failure, our mistake upon himself so that we could be forgiven.  It was the only way!

With open and scared arms he offers us forgiveness.  The amazing thing is that we did nothing for it, we did nothing to make him do it, we did nothing that convinced him it was a good idea.  Out of his love he gave it.  He made the first move, in fact he made all the moves.  That’s Grace!  And that’s what forgiveness is…grace.

Was it fair?  Not for Jesus.  He got what he didn’t deserve.  And so did we.  That’s Grace.

Hey, it’s the same for us.  Nothing different.  The same thing that Jesus did for us to give us forgiveness is what we must do for others to give them forgiveness.  Grace, pure grace.  THAT’S THE POINT OF THIS PARABLE.  The basic gist of this parable is that forgiven people should forgive.  It goes along with what Jesus said elsewhere, “to whom much is given, much is required.”

This is what I’ve misunderstood for so long and I think this is why we all struggle with forgiveness.  We want people to earn our forgiveness.  We sit on our forgiveness until they make the first or several moves of getting it from us.  Listen, just like you couldn’t earn your forgiveness from God, neither can others earn their forgiveness from us.

Why do we try to make it any different in our circumstances?  We ask, wait, demand for apologies.  We want people to try to make up for their mistakes against us.  We give people the silent treatment so that they will feel bad and try to pull out of you what they did wrong.  The truth of the matter is that this does more damage to us than it does to them.  Unforgiveness hurts the unforgiver more than the one needing forgiveness.

What someone did to us certainly hurts.  No doubt about it.  That’s why forgiveness is a difficult thing to give.  Pain...physical, mental, social, psychological, verbal…it hurts, bad.  We lose things because of others, we suffer consequences because of others' actions, we go through turmoil because of others…an on and on it goes.  Others cause pain to us, and it hurts.  You can not ignore and sometimes it will take the work of God and lots of years to heal the pain.  But do you know what also hurts?  Anger, bitterness, envy, strife, hate, rage, revenge, hard feelings.  You see, withholding forgiveness is like sitting on a burning coal…it burns you more than anyone else.  These things can only be healed with forgiveness.  And until forgiveness is given they will only get more painful, more damaging, and more controlling of your life.  Forgiveness frees you from these things.

We will never more fully understand the freedom there is in Christ until we follow his lead and forgive.  We will never fully understand, display, and experience the love of God until we give forgiveness.  We will never fully understand the amazing freedom there is in our forgiveness until we learn to forgive.  Many of us, as forgiven children of God, are living our lives in bondage not because Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t good enough, but because we aren't willing to give what we’ve received.  Be free.  Be forgiving.