In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. (Matthew 18:34 NIV)
I read Matthew 18 this morning. The end of the passage is a parable Jesus shares to answer questions about forgiveness. Peter asks how often he is required to forgive. He puts a limit on forgiveness. Can you imagine keeping track of every offense by each person in your life? I’m exhausted just thinking about it!!
I know Peter was simply trying to live as Jesus would expect. I imagine he was used to following a set of rules. It’s not like that with Jesus. He was not motivated by performance. Instead, love propels Him.
The servant in the story was jailed because he was unwilling to forgive a debt. He refused to offer the same mercy he had received from his master. Likewise, when we can’t bring ourselves to forgive, we are imprisoned. Our minds are consumed with thoughts of vengeance. We justify our behavior. We convince ourselves we have a right to feel this way. We think we are being righteous when we are actually judgemental.
The reality is, we will never be free until we forgive. God forgives us over and over. He shows us mercy and love every single day. We should offer the same. We have to if we want peace. But how do we? Sometimes, everything in us wants to but we just can’t.
True forgiveness is a process. It begins by allowing God’s will to override ours. We just have to tell Him we will forgive. Then we have to pray diligently for Him to change our hearts. He will but often times it takes work. It rarely happens overnight. And it has been my experience that I have to go to Him over and over recommitting to forgive. I know in the long run it is for my own benefit to forgive. And God knows that too!