Matthew 18:21-35 New Living Translation (NLT)

Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor

21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.[c] 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[d] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters[e] from your heart.”

During a recent conversation with a friend about the Parable of the Unforgiving debtor, I felt compelled to re-read the passage. What I noticed this time was the blank between verse 27 & 28. Verse 27 tells of the Master being filled with pity for the servant & mercifully releasing & forgiving him all that was owed. Verse 28 seems to portray that immediately after the King forgave, the servant went straight to find the fellow servant that owed him.

What was missing in the blank?

Truly accepting being forgiven.

The servant failed to soak in the enormity of his pardon while in the Kings presence. Had he stayed, bowed down before his Master, perhaps his head and his heart would have connected the huge dots that lead to the marvelous picture of being forgiven.

All to often, I fail to bow down before my Masters feet and repent for my sins against him, and then wait… hear him say “you are forgiven, my child.” But when I do, the feelings of utter gratitude of his love, grace & mercy overwhelm every part of my mind, soul & spirit and I compelled to WANT to forgive others the way He has and continually forgives me.

I’ve heard it taught that forgiveness isn’t turning a blind eye to the offense (or debt); instead, it’s choosing to pardon (or release) the person from what they owe us. Perhaps it’s that apology that we’ve been waiting for from a parent, or spouse, or friend that never came…. Regardless of what our fellow servant does or does not do, the power to forgive comes from our ability to be forgiven by the ONE who has never offended or sinned against us. It comes from the ONE who was fully God and fully man, who willingly chose to serve those who would ultimately betray Him. It comes from the ONE who suffered separation from His Father to endure all our sins as He hung on the cross. It is from this perfect ONE that we are given the mandate to forgive others 70 x 7 times. He sets this example for us, not to make us weak or to live in a perpetual state of denial, but because He loves us soooo much. He doesn’t want us to live a life in prison- being tortured by our enemy.

During one of my RTF sessions where I was being ministered to in this area of forgiveness, the Lord gave me a vision of myself. I was standing in a prison cell- longing to break free. When I finally chose to speak the words “I forgive _____(whoever it was that had offended/hurt me) Jesus, who was holding the keys, unlocked the door and swung it wide open. There I was, faced with the opportunity to walk into freedom. I could either choose to forgive completely, from my heart, or choose to continue to be bitter towards the person I had just forgiven from my head. I could stay in prison, being tortured by the enemy, or I could forgive, from my heart, & follow Jesus out.

Forgiveness is an act of the obedience- we don’t always feel like we want to forgive. When we find ourselves at that place, we need to engage our will and choose to bow before the Master & repent. After He forgives us, we need to let Him fill in the blank……& not get up immediately. After being released from the Master, we’ll willingly choose to walk out of the prison of unforgiveness & forgive others, from our hearts.

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