The Necessity of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:23-35


As Mark Twain once wrote; “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”


This morning we are going to focus on the necessity to forgive, and why it is so essential in defining who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ.


This parable that was shared this morning, at one level, is teaching that we should forgive one another. But there’s something much greater going on here. It’s not simply a story of moral instruction, it’s a kingdom parable—one that tells us about the very nature of God. Jesus intends for us to see that this is not just a story about financial debts and loans—nor even just interpersonal acts of forgiveness. The power lies in discovering God in this story—as well as ourselves.


When we identify with the debtor who owed the great debt and we put God on the throne as the king, we find the good news, the gospel. We are the ones forgiven an unimaginable debt. Our sin, our self-centered nature, our acts that cause harm to others and grieve God… all of those things put us in the place of the servant who could never repay the king.


Imagine if God called upon each of us to settle accounts. Could we?


Could we right all the wrongs—the little ones and the big ones? Is there anything we could reasonably do that would amend for the times we have willfully walked away from God? Simply, there’s not. We are the ones forgiven a debt that we could never, ever repay. We are recipients of God’s most gracious action, one that was not easy, for forgiving us came at the price of the death of Jesus Christ.


This forgiveness is offered to us, but God doesn’t force it upon us. We have to receive it. We too, like the servant, could hear the news that we are so greatly forgiven, and still walk away unchanged. But when we pause to digest what God has done, when we let this generous act humble us, we will be forever changed. And instead of running out of the palace to go grab our friend by the neck to call up a debt, we might be able to live with a hint of the graciousness that God has displayed towards us.


Have you ever wrestled with forgiveness and being forgiven?  There is a story of a woman who has been wrestling with forgiveness for a couple of years. A colleague lied to her in a manner that cost her financially, and it destroyed their friendship.


There was no apology, no remorse, no settling of accounts. This woman experienced great loss, and forgiveness was impossible for her.  In fact, it had eaten away at her in body, soul, and mind… you know how this can be.  Finally, at her breaking point she turned her brokenness over to God.


From this letting go she has come to see that forgiveness doesn’t require further enabling bad behavior, and it isn’t blindly forgetting, and it doesn’t mean that she has to trust that former friend again.


Instead she slowly found his way to forgiving her colleague. God intimately knows just how costly it can be to forgive. And she did it anyway. Christ can help us to do so too. God has given us all that is necessary to forgive.

We can cancel a small debt owed to us because we have been freed from a much greater debt…. God is serious about forgiveness. He displays it in freeing and forgiving us. But God will also hold us accountable if we do not forgive. God is radically merciful, even long on patience, but God is no pushover and will ultimately judge right from wrong.


If you have had a hard time forgiving someone in your life—particularly those tough circumstances that cause deep pain—place it in the hands of God and He will begin this journey of healing with you. If not a portion of our emotional and spiritual lives will continue to be handicapped.


When we choose not to begin this journey bitterness will eventually eat away at us, or the resentment in our heart will make it cold. In a way, by not forgiving them, we imprison ourselves. That’s why Jesus teaches us that we must forgive. I want to share one final story of my own journey to forgiveness.


I discovered some disconcerting truths about my family and how people close to me were treated so horribly be a person who I’ve loved and trusted. Do I find it hard to forgive, yes, but I also know that if I desire to be set free from that hurt and resentment I need to leave behind that baggage which is holding me back.


“First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us. It is also necessary to realize that the forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression. The wrongdoer may request forgiveness. He may come to himself, and, like the prodigal son, move up some dusty road, his heart palpitating with the desire for forgiveness. But only the injured neighbor, the loving father back home, can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.

“Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words ‘I will forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you’ve done’ never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, ‘I will forgive you, but I won’t have anything further to do with you.’ Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies

“The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.


Jesus teaches us to “love our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat us.” I know if we’re to move towards wholeness we must say “yes” to forgiveness. Are you ready this morning to say “yes” to God.