The Challenge of Forgiving People
To bring a lesson home forcefully, Jesus often used exaggeration—a common Semitic practice—or contrasted opposites like wisdom and foolishness, generosity and stinginess. Surely there’s no clearer instance of exaggeration than today’s Gospel reading about the unforgiving servant. A man who was forgiven an enormous debt, the equivalent of 150,000 years’ wages, refused to cancel another man’s debt that equaled a hundred days’ wages, a debt that was only 1/20,000 of 1 percent as great as his own. Although the servant acknowledged his need for mercy, he didn’t allow that mercy to soften his heart. And the consequence for him was devastating.
The blunt ending of this story is a direct challenge for us to be just as forgiving toward people as God has been to us. It also underscores something Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we are not trying our best to be merciful, compassionate, and forgiving, we will find it very hard to pray or to know God’s love and mercy in our lives.
If this sounds intimidating, remember today’s parable! It is the experience of being forgiven that moves us to forgive. The extent to which we know God’s mercy in our lives is the extent to which we will treat each other mercifully.
So do you want to become more forgiving? Then run to Jesus and ask him for a greater outpouring of his love. Echo the psalmist’s prayer: “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me” (Psalm 25:4). Open yourself to his love, so that you can give it away!
“Thank you, Jesus, for the countless times you’ve forgiven my sins. By your grace, soften my heart. Let your own immeasurable mercy teach me to be merciful as well.”
Daily Reflection from The Word Among Us (www.wau.org)