Forgiveness: The Right Perspective

Churches are filled with sinners saved by grace.  So, in order for a church to remain healthy, the people must know how (and be willing) to ask for and grant forgiveness.  If the people of a church don’t know how to reconcile with one another, even a small conflict can turn into massive bitterness.  The division that results from these unresolved conflicts prevents the church from doing what it exists to do.  It’s really hard to focus on making and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ when all of our energies are tied up with gossip, back-biting, avoidance, building factions, volatile business meetings, and all the other sinful actions that tag along with a lack of reconciliation.

Matthew 18:21-35 is such a great passage to get us in the right frame of mind to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation.  Please take a moment to read the passage right now!

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus is following up his teaching on rebuke, forgiveness and church discipline in verses 15-20.  After Jesus taught these things, Peter wondered, “How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”  In order to answer this question, Jesus shared this parable.

To summarize, there are three main people in this parable: The master, a servant who owed a debt to the master he could never have hoped to pay, and another servant who owed a smaller, payable amount to the first servant.  It’s pretty easy to figure out the master in the parable represents God.  However, we can stumble over our understanding of who the two servants represent.

Since one of the servants owes a debt he could never repay and the other just owes a small amount (The debt being equated to our sin), we might be tempted to think of ourselves as the second servant, the one who owes just a little.  But, that’s not who we are in this parable!  We are to see ourselves in the role of the servant who owed a debt he could never hope to repay!

Remember, the first servant owed a debt to the master.  The second servant owed to the first servant.  This parable reminds us of the sin debt God forgave for us!  A sin debt we could never have hoped to repay.  Jesus Christ paid for our sin in full at the cross!

That servant who had his debt forgiven by the master, was then to see the smaller debt owed to him by another servant as miniscule in comparison.  The failure of the first servant to forgive his fellow servant showed that he had no respect or understanding of the mercy and grace he had just been given.

With this parable, Jesus showed us how the gospel ties directly to forgiveness.  Do you see it?  

We can forgive because God forgave us first!


This post is the first in a series on the subject of forgiveness.