Forgiveness is a two-way street

Posted Sep 14, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times [Or seventy times seven]. 23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold [Or ten thousand talanta, an amount equal to the wages for sixty million days]. 25 Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.

28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins [Or one hundred denaria, an amount equal to the wages for one hundred days]. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’

29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.

31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.

35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Ephesians 4:31-32

31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.

Reflection Questions

Most of Jesus’ themes in his teaching grew out of the Hebrew Scriptures. That was certainly true of this parable about a king who showed almost undreamed of mercy (earlier this week we read Psalm 103:9-13 and Isaiah 55:6-9). When we serve a king as merciful as God, then our gratitude toward the king and our mercy toward others will be signs that we truly value and wish to live by the kingdom’s values.

  • Jesus' story made the debt owed to the king absurdly large—as if he said the man owed “a gazillion dollars.” Was Jesus right in his picture of the debt we owe God, to show us how badly we need a Savior? Scholar Craig Keener noted, “Seventy times seven… does not really mean exactly 490 here; it is a typically graphic Jewish way of saying ‘Never hold grudges.’”* How can taking in God’s vast forgiveness transform you over time to be able to forgive others as God forgives you?
  • Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “People who are enslaved to anger and malice may think they are ‘free’ to ‘be themselves,’ but they are in bondage. If we are marked out by the Spirit’s personal presence living in us, think how sad it makes that Spirit if we behave in ways which don’t reflect the life and love of God.”** Before you scold that server, post that acid Facebook response or yell at your spouse or kids, ask, “Am I being ‘kind, compassionate, and forgiving’? Can I picture Jesus acting this way?”


Lord Jesus, you gave up so much to reach me with your forgiveness. Help me to accept and value that gift, and to be more forgiving toward myself and others in my life. Amen.

* Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993, comment on Matthew 18:22.

** N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, pp. 55-56.

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Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger Rothhaas

Ginger is a graduate of Saint Paul School of Theology. She and her husband Rob have a son, a daughter, and a high energy dog. She loves writing, conversations over coffee, and teaching spiritual classes.

I was asked recently, “What if I have tried to forgive 77,490, and one billion times and I still can’t let go of it?”

Good question. I think we can all relate to this person’s inability to forgive completely.

We know, as Christians, we are to forgive over and over, time and time again. But what if the incident still haunts us? What if we are still a prisoner to our bitterness, blame, anger, and resentment toward that person?

That’s when I think we have to try this approach….

Close your eyes and place your hand on your heart. Honor your pain and say to yourself:
"I send you compassion. I send you peace. I send you forgiveness. I send you hope."

Now picture the person who harmed you and say:  
"I send you compassion. I send you peace. I send you forgiveness. I send you hope."

You may have to say it through gritted teeth or tears for a while. You may not mean it, at first--say it anyway. You may think this is ridiculous. But keep doing it. Every day. Every time you think of the hurt. Every time you think of that person.

And, from my experience with this practice, the darkness of the situation begins to fade. You begin to soften your heart. You begin to notice you are releasing the pain. You begin to feel God redeeming the situation. You notice you are liberated. You are free. You have peace. You have hope. You experience the Kingdom of God.

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