Forgiveness is transformational. But it isn’t easy. Because it requires a lot.
Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 18:23-35 about a servant who owes the king a debt of 10,000 talents. Estimates vary on exactly how much that converts to in today’s dollars, but many commentators suggest that one talent was roughly a year’s wages. Referencing 10,000 talents was Jesus’ way of communicating that the servant was hopelessly in debt to the king. Which is what makes the king’s gracious forgiveness so remarkable. He rescues his servant out of impossible circumstances.
But then a second servant enters the story. This one owes the first servant a much smaller debt, what amounts to pocket change. The first servant refuses to forgive the second and throws him in jail.
When the king hears of this, he has the first servant brought before him and asks, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?”
And there it is. The crux of the problem. We want other people to forgive our mistakes, but we struggle to forgive others when their mistakes impact us. Jesus linked the Father’s willingness to forgive us to our willingness to forgive others.
Too often, we pit forgiveness and justice against each other. Forgiving those who have hurt us feels tantamount to excusing their behavior. So, we withhold forgiveness, But seeking justice apart from forgiveness isn’t justice, it’s vengeance.
There’s a better way. A biblical way. At the moment that Jesus died, He simultaneously satisfied God’s demand for justice while opening the door for His infinite mercy through which we are forgiven.
I’m talking with Dr. Tim Keller on our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Forgiving Others, Freeing the Soul.” Join us as we unpack Scripture and discuss the nature of forgiveness and how to forgive others in a way that produces true freedom. Listen on your local radio station, online, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or take us with you on our free phone app.
Dr. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. His book Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I? is available for a gift of any amount. And when you help Focus on the Family today with a gift, your donation will be DOUBLED for twice the impact in helping others through this ministry. Our thanks to generous donors who’ve made that possible. For more information, click here.