Matthew 18:27-28 "And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. : But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ĎPay what you owe.íí
Have you ever given much thought to forgiveness? Have you ever thought about what you pray? Long ago and far away someone once asked me for help, they needed to find a prayer, a good everyday prayer, and so we began to talk about what he was looking for and we found a list of things, I canít remember how the list went, just that the gist of it was God, this is what I want and this is how I want it. I thought I would be helpful, and review with him the most perfect of all prayers, the Lordís Prayer, it is not only good to pray, but it provides a good model for our own prayers.
As we talked, he explained that he had a real problem with the Lordís Prayer, first because he really didnít want to do Godís will and second, because he really couldnít pray for God to forgive him as he forgave others, although he wanted Godís forgiveness, he was not willing to let go of the past, or to forgive until he had somehow gotten even.
That was long ago and far away, but ever since that time I keep running into people who believe that God is love and God will forgive regardless of what they do or fail to do. I keep running into people who think that getting even is the only thing that can close the books, I suppose its kind of a balancing the accounts. I keep running into people whose lives are devoted to getting even with someone. You probably have the same experience, so what do you say to them?
If you tell them what God says, they call you legalistic, cold, uncaring and judgmental. [you may even get a "judge not lest ye also be judged" thrown in] If you encourage them to repent, they explain to you how their situation is different, and how its the other person who had better repent. And if knowing the obstacles that comes from saying something... you decide to say nothing, then your conscience begins to nag you, accusing you and saying, and what will you say to God, when he asks you why you didnít speak the Word you were given?
In the face of what seems a no win situation, the Word of God brings to us an answer, a way we can speak a word of warning and encouragement, and it is the parable which is our theme tonight. You see the kingdom of God is like a king settling accounts, come judgment day all the accounts will be paid in full, one way or the other. I guess we must be plain, there will be a judgment day, and everyone will be judged. We also need to be clear as to what the standard is; the 10 commandments are a summary of Godís minimum requirements, a shorter and more inclusive summary is this, "be ye perfect, as I the Lord your God am perfect." In other words, anything short of perfection is sin, and the wages of sin is death, not just an end of this life, but the end of any hope of an everlasting life in a perfect place prepared for us, and it is not just the loss of hope, but it is also a promise of swift and certain punishment. Those are the stakes.
Which brings us back to our hope, not our works, not our merit, but simply the mercy of God, and the love which moved God to answer our need in the gift of His Son. Forgiveness is the one thing that no one on this earth can buy, not matter how much money. That is why we are all debtors before God, because God has paid the price to give us forgiveness, not just for one sin, but for all our sins.
The wonderful thing about the parable, is that it is able to ask everyone who hears it, Is hanging on to a grudge more important to you that hanging on to Godís gift of forgiveness life and salvation in Jesus Christ, because you can only hand on to one, or the other... And most people faced with that choice are not willing to suffer through and eternal hell, for a few moments of vengeance now.