We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Tonight, we're going to consider the ABCs of forgiveness. And we're going to do that from Matthew chapter 18, beginning in verse 21. Matthew 18, verse 21.
Now, to extend forgiveness, to be a forgiver, is often very costly to the person that's doing the forgiving. Forgiveness is often a very, very challenging action to take. However, when it is experienced, it's one of life's greatest delights and one of God's greatest joys.
Now, the good news for us is that God is in the business of forgiving sinners. And since we, as His children, are to be about our Father's business, forgiving those who've sinned against us is also to be our business. We might say that forgiveness is our family business.
Speaking of family businesses, according to a 2012 Harvard Business School study, some 70% of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation gets a chance to take it over-- 70%. The big reason given for the high failure rate is what they refer to as business divorce, a term used to describe the separation between owners of a business.
And they go on to describe that business divorce can often be just as painful as marital divorce. Family feuds and high emotions that run wild as family members vie for power are primarily why these businesses fail. Now, undoubtedly, forgiveness or the lack thereof played a significant part in why many of these family members decided that their differences were irreconcilable.
Now, some of you know the answer to this, but for the rest of you, the answer will possibly be very surprising to you. Do you want to know what the number one reason why American missionaries leave the foreign mission field before they had planned to is-- the number one reason? It's interpersonal conflict with other missionaries.
In fact, toward the end of the 20th century, the World Evangelical Alliance released a significant study that has detailed, in a 380-page document that I've actually read parts of, that found that, quote, "conflict with peers" as the top reason North American missionaries leave the mission field. Now, again, undoubtedly, forgiveness or the lack thereof played a significant part in why many of these spiritual family members came to the conclusion that they had to leave the mission field early.
Now, lest any of you assume that pastors or church workers never battle with forgiveness, let me share with you the findings of a 2016 survey of Protestant churches from four denominations that was conducted by Lifeway Research on 734 former pastors that revealed that a, quote, "change in calling" was mentioned as the most common reason why they left the ministry that they were in. So we think, OK, well that's not conflict. However, number two, for 25% of those pastors who left the ministry, they cited that it was conflict with church members that brought them to the place of leaving the ministry. And again, undoubtedly, forgiveness or the lack thereof of brought these spiritual leaders to the place where they looked at their church, people that I'm sure that they had given blood, sweat, and tears for for many years, and finally decided, man, these differences are irreconcilable.
And then there's the very common conflicts of marriage. Those of us who are married, we know that marital conflict can result from differences in many areas between a husband and a wife, all too often leading to divorce, even in Christian marriages. In fact, 1 in 5 Christian marriages end in divorce. Why? Well, undoubtedly, forgiveness or the lack thereof played a part in these married couples discovering, deciding, concluding that their differences were irreconcilable.
So we, as people, know from our own experiences that forgiveness does not come easy or natural to humankind. And it's not even, in a lot of situations, easier for many of us as Christians. However, what does seem to come very natural to us as people are grudges and vengeance.
In fact, Niccolo Machiavelli-- listen to his words. "If an injury has to be done to a man, it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." We're going to so disable him that we're not going to be mindful of the fact that he could come and take vengeance upon us.
And it was Alfred Hitchcock who rejoiced that revenge is sweet. And it's also non-fattening.
Now, some of us would be reluctant to admit that we, too, have a sweet tooth for vengeance. Now, even many non-Christians who are considered very wise in antiquity, they also came to know that vengeance is extremely dangerous and counterproductive. In fact, it was Confucius who said, before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, one for the one upon whom you're taking vengeance, and the other for yourself. And it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said, vengeance has no foresight. You see, vengeance is such a powerful experience that oftentimes, all we can see is the very moment, and our eyes are full of rage and blood, that we don't think beyond taking vengeance and how destructive that can be.
So that brings us to our passage tonight, where Jesus teaches us the opposite of vengeance, which is forgiveness. And He teaches us that it's a learned behavior that He supremely modeled for us, that He, in this passage and throughout many parts of scripture, taught us about, but that also, He too expects of us.
I found it interesting-- as I was studying, I came across an article that recounted, decades ago, after a shooting at an Amish schoolhouse claimed five young lives, the outsiders of that Amish community were stunned when the community responded with immediate forgiveness. But sociologist Donald Kraybill found that from an early age, the Amish practice forgiveness exercises.
And he goes on to conclude, you see, they'd been preparing to forgive this huge injustice their whole lives. So for some of us here, this is a behavior that we have acquired over years of walking with Christ. And for others, this is a new discovery that it's even possible to be forgiving like Christ.
So as we're turned to Matthew 18, beginning in verse 21, let's follow along as I read all the way through verse 35. So beginning in verse 21, "Then Peter--" ah, faithful Peter, who always asks the questions that most of us are thinking-- "came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'
But Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to 70 times 7.' Therefore, the kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents.
But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold with his wife and children, and all that he had in the payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, please, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion. He released him and forgave him the debt.
But that very servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 dinari. And he laid hands on him. And he took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe.'
So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And he would not, but went, rather, and threw him into prison until all that he owed should be paid.
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that he had done. And then his master, after he called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?'
And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him." And Jesus concludes, telling the disciples, "So my Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother."
And so let's look at the ABCs of forgiveness. And we start with A, which stands for Anatomy. We're going to first consider the anatomy of forgiveness.
This forgiveness is first to be limitless. Now, the context of the passage we just read are the previous five verses, where Jesus is teaching the disciples how to reconcile with a brother or a sister when they believe that that brother or sister has committed a sin against them. And so as Jesus takes them through that process, we have Peter pop up and say, OK, now I get it. I know what the process is to reconcile with a brother who sins against me.
But Jesus, how much is enough? How many times do I actually have to go through this entire process with someone who sins against me that is a brother or sister of mine? And so as we read, Peter asks what most of us are often thinking-- "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?" And then he throws out a possibility. Up to seven?
Now, Jewish tradition stated that three was how many times you were required to forgive another. You see, the rabbis had deduced a repeated statement by God out of the book of Amos where God is describing forgiving the nations of Israel for how they had sinned against him and his people. And so from those passages, they deduced that three was the maximum. After three, you're off the hook.
And so here's Peter. I can just imagine what Peter's thinking. On the one hand, he's with the rest of the disciples, right? He's looking at all 11. And these are his brothers that he spends most of his time with.
And he's asking Jesus, in their presence, how many times might I have to go through this process with any one of these disciples? Seven? He's doubling the Jewish tradition of three, and he's perhaps even adding one for good measure, maybe even to just impress Jesus.
But Jesus says, oh, Peter, no, not even seven. And as we read, in verse 22, Jesus says to him, "I did not say to you up to seven times, but rather, 70 times 7." And at that moment, Peter's getting out his calculator, and he's trying to figure this thing out, right?
OK, there's a number. Let me just find out what that number is. And he comes to 490.
But 490 isn't the number that Jesus is intending for all of them to land on. In fact, this phrase is a use of hyperbole. The idea that Jesus is trying to convey to them is that, you know what? You forgive until you lose count.
You see, the law keeps record. The law keeps count. Legalism keeps score. But Jesus came to fulfill the law. And in the New International Version, in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 5, we discover that this Christian love that Jesus fulfilled the law with keeps no record of wrongs. My friend, Christian love does not keep score.
You see, in another part of the gospels, Jesus put it this way. In Luke 17, verses 3 through 5, he says, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke them. And if they repent, forgive them." Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times, they come back to you saying, I repent, I'm so sorry again, you must forgive them.
And I love the disciples' response. Immediately after Jesus says this, in the first part of the very next verse, the apostles said to the Lord, "Lord, increase our faith." Seven times in a day? That's hard. We're going to need a whole lot more faith to do that.
But, Christian, let me remind us that there is not a one of us in this hearing that has been able to keep count of all the sins that we've ever committed. And yet God continues to forgive us. That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So first, this forgiveness is to be limitless.
But now, we come to the origin of this forgiveness, and that's that this forgiveness, this limitless forgiveness, is divine. We've all heard the phrase, to err is human. To forgive, divine.
You know that we can't even find who exactly said that first? Because throughout history, it's been quoted by so many people, we've lost track of who said it first. And that's because it resonates with all of mankind, not only now, but even throughout the ages.
And so to further illustrate this, Jesus then gives us a parable to show us this forgiveness. And as we begin in verse 23, I'm going to march us through this parable, and take it piece by piece, and try to explain it as best I can as we go along. So I'm going to ask that you be patient with me, because there's a lot to be appreciated from this parable.
So again, beginning in verse 23, Jesus starts the parable by saying, "Therefore, the kingdom of Heaven." Now, let me remind us that Jesus is addressing the disciples, those who believe in Him, His followers. Peter asked the question, how many times should my brother sin against me?
And so what we discover here is that when Jesus refers to the kingdom of Heaven, we need to be reminded that the citizens of God's Heaven are His children-- those who have been born again and believe in Him. And so this passage primarily deals with Christians forgiving one another. Now, while Christians need to be forgiving of everyone, Jesus is starting at home, so to speak. He's starting by addressing the family business, because until we get this straight at home, or amongst one another within the family business, we're not going to be able to export it to an unbelieving world.
You see Galatians chapter 6, verse 10, Paul tells us, "Therefore as we as Christians have opportunity, let us do good to all," Christians and non-Christian alike. "However, especially," he says, "to those who are of the household of faith." So this type of forgiveness amongst us as believers starts at home.
And continuing in the next part of verse 23, he says, "This kingdom is like a certain king." Now, as we read on, we discover very quickly that this certain king is intended to represent Him, the Messiah. Therefore, He as Messiah, God in the flesh, he's beginning to tell them that the origin of this type of forgiveness is not earthly, but it's divine.
He says, this certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Now, in ancient times, and in ancient kingdoms, all citizens were subject to the king. And as such, everyone in that kingdom were to be considered as the king's servants, regardless of their rank, regardless of their role, or regardless of their job in the kingdom, whether that be garbage collecting or being a tax collector in some of the most affluent parts of that kingdom.
So everyone in the kingdom was a servant of the king. And furthermore, that king had the power of life and death over all of them, no matter what their rank, role, or job be in the kingdom. And he goes on to say, when that king had begun to settle accounts.
This reveals a lot to us about the nature of these two servants that are referred to here in this parable. You see, these accounts that are being referred to, that the king is settling, are very likely tied to the job of tax collection. Perhaps these two servants of the king were both tax collectors whose collections for that year had come due, which is why these amounts were both very high in proportion to what each of those servants themselves made on an annual basis.
This is also, perhaps, what gave them access to such large amounts of money so that they would end up incurring this kind of debt for the king, as they perhaps embezzled that money, keeping it for themselves. But the day of reckoning had come. The king was now ready to settle accounts.
So the practice was, within the Roman kingdom, that once they hired a tax collector, they would tell that tax collector, this is the percentage of what you collect that you can keep. And so it gave incentive to the tax collectors to tax as high as possible the people of that kingdom. This is why tax collectors were so unpopular.
So let's just throw a number out there. Let's just say, if the agreement with the Roman government was that the tax collector could keep 10% of all that he collected, and throughout the provinces, he collected a million bucks, that means that he was able to keep $100,000. It also meant that he had access to, and temptation from, a total like $900,000. And if he was not a good steward of that, when the day to settle accounts came, and he didn't have it, he'd be in a lot of trouble.
So this limitless forgiveness is divine. And we begin to discover that we're dealing with some very large numbers. And so let me ask you again, perhaps the same question that Peter asked Jesus, all right, God, exactly how limitless? You see, at this point, I think the reason Jesus further describes the parable as we're going to discover he does is because he knew the tendency of Peter, or those of us like Peter, who were going to actually hold him to that 490 number.
He says, I know guys like Peter are probably going to try that 490 thing. They might start keeping score starting today. And so to do away with that, he goes on to explain further that this forgiveness is to be this limitless.
And second part of verse 24, he says, "One was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents." Now, a talent in the times of Christ was a very large monetary measurement. And so 10,000 talents was a lot of money.
I want you to consider this, by comparison, that in the time of Christ, the annual revenue collected by the Roman government from taxes that were collected from only these four provinces-- Idumea, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee-- all together totaled 900 talents. And here we have this guy on the hook for 10,000 talents.
Now, furthermore, this phrase, 10,000, is the Greek word myrion. It's from which we get our English word myriad, meaning manifold, many. This number was often used as a phrase of hyperbole for an incalculable number, an out-of-reach number, a number that would be inconceivable for this servant to ever pay off in a lifetime. We might use the word zillion in our day and age. This guy owed zillions of dollars.
But as we continue reading, in verse 25, "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold." That is, "into slavery, along with his wife, and children, and everything that he had. And that payment should be made."
And so once this servant hears this sentence, what does he do? He does what most of us would do. That servant, therefore, fell down before the king. This word, fell down, means that he was prostrate before the king as a defeated, destroyed, and even a dead man. All dignity was out the window as he's emptying himself in front of this king, throwing himself at the mercy of the king.
And as he does this, he says, "Master, please have patience with me." In asking for patience, he's pleading to the king to defer his anger. Be evenly tempered with me, even though I've provoked you. I'm asking for some patience.
Now, to this man's credit, he humbled himself. You see, for us, when we're in the place of needing the forgiveness of others, we can be honest with those that we need to apologize to in the same way this man here was honest before the king.
There may be those times in life where we have to say, you know what? I can't give back what I've stolen. I can't undo the hurt and the harm that I've caused. I don't have the means to pay back or to replace that which I've broken.
So this man was honest. Then he goes on to say, "I will pay you all." Now, that statement, knowing the amount that he owes the king, is an irrational promise. It's almost like an excited utterance, where he's just trying to demonstrate to the king that whatever it takes, I'm willing to commit to doing that in order to avoid being sold into slavery, along with my family and everything I own. I'll do everything I can to pay it back.
And then we see where this forgiveness comes from. It comes from compassion and mercy. As we read in verse 27, "Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion."
This is a very interesting Greek word, splanchnistheis. It's got a weird sound to it-- splanchnistheis. And what it means is to be affected deeply in one's inner being. He's feeling it in the pit of his stomach-- especially characterized by feelings in the bowels of sympathy and compassion. He is moved by this man's pleadings to the point that he ends up setting him free.
You see, that last verse of the passage we read, Jesus says that we need to forgive from the heart. And so this King in this parable is demonstrating that type of from-the-heart forgiveness. And then we read, this forgiveness sets the debtor free.
Verse 27-- "The master released him and forgave him the debt." You see, this means to actually let go, to release. He freed him from any required remuneration, any justice, any resentment, any vengeance, any fairness.
He released him from the tit-for-tat relationship of you do your part and I'll do mine. This is a 50/50 deal. He released him from that by overmatching any expression of love, and compassion, and mercy that this other person could ever repay. And in doing so, he sets him free.
You see, forgiveness is not agreeing with people when they're wrong or when we differ with them on something. Forgiveness doesn't require that the truth be sacrificed. But it does require mercy to the debtor or to the offender.
Author Marshall Shelley put it this way. "True forgiveness, this letting go, is saying, I don't completely understand you, even though you've sinned against me. I can't excuse what's happened. And I can't forget what you've done.
But here's my hand. I want to be your friend again. I still want to work with you. Let's begin over."
Forgiveness, in so many ways, is exactly that. It's a fresh start. Forgiveness reboots a relationship. It gives hope for a better future in a relationship.
And there's great cost to this kind of forgiveness, for, as we continue in the parable, we discover that forgiveness involves a decision to incur personal loss. You see, this king had made a conscious decision that he was never going to get back what he was owed.
Of this, Tim Keller who is a contemporary Christian theologian, author, and pastor in New York City, says this. Quote, "God's grace and forgiveness, while free to the recipient, are always costly for the giver. From the earliest parts of the Bible, it was understood that God would not forgive without sacrifice. No one who is seriously wrong can just forgive the perpetrator.
But when you do forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly." So friend, let us take this to heart. We are never more like Christ then when we forgive those who've sinned against us. You know, forgiveness truly is, for the Christian, the stuff of authentic, legitimate Christianity.
Now, undoubtedly, some of us are thinking at this point, you know what? I'm all for God forgiving that way. In fact, I'm not God. And God can do a whole lot more than I can. So it's great if God wants to forgive that way, but God's never been the victim of the loss or theft of all that he owned or held dear. Oh, really?
God's never been the victim of betrayal in his closest relationships. Really? God Himself has never been the victim of slavery or false imprisonment. He's never been the victim of injustice from coworkers or someone in authority.
He's never been the victim of racism or prejudice. He's never been rejected by his family or society. He's never experienced public humiliation and scorn. He's never experienced false accusations like I have. He's never been the victim of murder.
Now, any of us who know our Bible well enough know that God Himself was a victim of all those things in the life of Jesus Christ. In fact, Hebrews 4:15 tells us, "For we don't have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but rather, He was at all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."
And remember, these words from the cross that Jesus uttered that are recorded in Luke chapter 3, verse 34, in the first part, where Jesus, from the cross, says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I know some of us, some of you, and I know some of you stories have very hard pills that you've had to swallow in life-- pills of great harm, great betrayal, great loss, and great suffering at the hands of others. Friend, at some point, and if it hasn't happened yet, may tonight be the night that we simply accept that life on Earth will always be filled with grave injustices, and that it's only the life of God, and only the love of God, and only the power of God that can enable us to forgive even the most wicked sins that have been or are going to be committed against us.
So as Jesus is moving through this parable, at this point, the implication of the parable is that the expectation will be that this forgiven servant would be so grateful that he would emerge from having been released, freed. And he would immediately pay this great mercy he received forward to others. But he did not.
Rather, he betrayed the mercy that the king had showed him, which brings us to the B of the ABCs of forgiveness, which is Betrayal of forgiveness. You see, to betray is to be unfaithful in guarding or maintaining a stewardship, to be disloyal. And so this forgiven servant was disloyal to the King's merciful, forgiving example. And so as we continue in the parable, we discover that betrayed forgiveness happens when a forgiven sinner forgets how much God has forgiven them. And in turn, he doesn't forgive others in the same way.
We read in the first part of verse 28, "But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 dinari." Now, a dinari is believed to have been the amount of a worker's daily wage. So 100 dinari would be 100 days' wages.
So we're looking at roughly 27% of a person's annual income. That's a lot of money. But in proportion to the 10,000 talents, it's manageable. It's realistic. It's attainable.
But he goes to find this person, not to forgive them of the debt, but to call them due on the debt. You see, this forgiven servant emerged and was not forgiven-- or forgiving, rather, to his fellow servants.
Now, this can happen within the church. There's times where it happens among you Christians who just haven't yet realized a couple of things, one of which is that God can actually enable them to fulfill his desire for them, as a new creation in Christ, to forgive those who've harmed them in the past. And so as they discover that, as they begin to appreciate further the magnitude of God's forgiveness of their sin, the church can walk them through the process of them coming to terms and forgiving those who've sinned against them.
But this can also happen very commonly amongst the more mature and even seasoned Christians. Friends, I know we've all come across these people. These would be Christians that we know they've walked with Christ for a long time, but they turn the corner, and we immediately start to pray for God to deliver us, right? We've experienced them as crusty, or grumpy, or always complaining.
Graceless people, we might wonder if their relationship with Christ has gone stale. How does this happen? Well, Christian, even for those of us who've walked with the Lord for many years, perhaps even decades, this can happen when we forget that we've been forgiven by grace, and we begin to act as if we've been forgiven because of our own merits.
We may even look down upon others in the church with disdain and a sense of superiority. And if that happens, it produces an arrogance and an insensitivity. You see, this kind of Christian goes back to keeping score.
This kind of Christian, when they're in the church, they're kind of like that smell in the refrigerator that hits you once you open the door, and you know it's somewhere in that fridge. You don't know exactly what it is or where it's coming from. But boy, is it undeniable.
Any one of us, if we forget that we've been forgiven, and we start keeping score again, can become that smelly thing in the church. You see, this happens when we've forgotten Matthew 5:37, where Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they too shall obtain mercy." We've forgotten James chapter 2, verse 13, in the first part, where it says, "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy."
We've forgotten that we're supposed to pray as Jesus taught us in Matthew chapter 6, verse 12. "Forgive us of our debts, Lord, as we forgive our debtors." And we've forgotten the very words of Christ out of Matthew chapter 6, verses 14 through 15, where Jesus says, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you."
What a great deal. What a great agreement that God has made with us. How generous of him. "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Furthermore, as we continue, this betrayed forgiveness, it's without mercy. The second part of verse 28-- "And so this servant, the one who had been forgiven this great debt, turns to the one that owes him. And he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe me.'"
For any of us in the church who ourselves have been brought to this place as a forgiven sinner, but have begun keeping score and not forgiven one another, this could bring any of us to the place where, as we hold someone by the throat, whether in our heart or out loud, we're uttering these words, I deserve my money back. And he might.
I deserve my reputation back. And he might. I deserve my health back. And he might.
I deserve to be treated well in return. I sacrifice for you so much. And he might. I deserve that promotion at work. And he might.
I deserve an apology. And he might. I deserve restitution. And he might.
I deserve to know that you hurt as much as you've hurt me. And the justice system might even agree with him. Perhaps, if given a platform, that unforgiving person might release an internal rage that has been pent up, bubbling over time under pressure, that would even threaten the very life of the debtor.
So this taking of this man by the throat is an indication that I have your life in my hands. And if need be, I can take that life. But such vengeance is the opposite of God's love and forgiveness, especially as it's articulated in 1 John, chapter 4, verses 18 and 19, where we're told, "There is no fear in love, but rather, perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.
But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him--" Why? "--because He first loved us." You see, a truly forgiving Christian will truly forgive all others. Now, for some of us, it takes a while to get there. But friend, you'll eventually get there.
Corrie Ten Boom-- many of us are familiar with her, and the accounts of her and her family hiding Jews in their home during the Holocaust, being discovered and having to go to prison. Her story is recounted in the book titled "The Hiding Place." She also lost close members of her family to the hands of the Nazis during that time. Eventually, she got released because of a clerical error and lived to tell her story.
And as one who suffered grave sin against her, she writes, "After it all, forgiveness is an act of the will. And the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart."
Aren't you glad for people who've been down that road farther than we have? That they can look back and, by their example, prove God's word to be true? That God can indeed enable us to forgive even those who've sinned against us so wickedly?
In verse 29, we continue to read, "So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him." He's doing the same thing that he had done to the king. "And he begged him, saying, 'Have patience now with me, and I will pay you all.'"
Now, his statement of I'll pay you all is actually quite realistic. Again, it's an attainable amount. Put me on a monthly installment plan, give me some time, and I'll get you your money back.
But we read in verse 30 that he would not. "But he went, rather, and threw him into prison until he should pay all the debt." And that brings us near our close as we consider the C of the ABCs of forgiveness, and that would be the Consequences of unforgiveness.
Now, the first consequence we discover is the consequence of a bad witness as God's child, the consequence of a failed example of a Christian. In verse 31, "So when his fellow servants saw what he had done," what was their response? They were grieved. It sickened them.
It sickened them to the point that they had to do something about it. You see, once again, this is the opposite of the love of God, as described to us by Jesus in John chapter 13, verse 35, where he says, "By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
You see, when the body of Christ is infected with unforgiveness, when this sin is in the camp, the body must no longer look outward to the unbelieving world in trying to reach them, but rather, the body then has to turn inward and address that infected part of the body where that unforgiveness is. And effectively, this puts the body out of commission from fulfilling the great commission in order to address this infection of sin.
So just picture this. The king is wanting to lead all of the kingdom in advancing the kingdom. But because this happens, he has to turn his direction to the people of the kingdom and address this sin.
The second part of verse 31 says, and he came and told-- or rather, "The group came and told their master all that had been done. And then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant.'" How profoundly opposite is this of the words that all of us long to hear immediately after we breathe our last breath on earth and our first breath in Heaven, which are, "Well done, good and faithful servant?" This man is declared a wicked servant.
So not only is there a consequence of a bad witness. But there is also this further consequence of being exposed as a hypocrite. Second part of verse 32, "I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?"
The master is saying, I showed you pity, leniency, mercy. I put my Jersey on you, so to speak, as I released you to represent me as a freed man. But you're playing the hypocrite. You're saying that you're my child, but you're acting as if you're not.
And this brings us to the next consequence, and that's of incurring God's anger and justice in exchange for God's mercy and grace. You ever consider that many of us stop experiencing blessing from God because we don't pay those blessings forward by passing them on, that others might be blessed? Like this man, we keep it to ourselves, but we don't share it with others?
Verse 34, "His master was angry." This connotes an intense emotional agitation. In the original language, it reflects that the king had an antipathy toward this servant as he looked at him. I don't even want you in my presence.
And in order to excuse him from his presence, the last part of verse 34, "He delivered him to the torturers." I want you to note that he didn't deliver them to the executioners, but he delivered him to the torturer until he should pay all that was due to him, the master, which begs the question, what was it that was now due to the master?
Was the master now going to reinstitute the initial debt? The answer to that is no. It would betray the whole point of the parable. You see, what the master now was calling this servant to pay him justly was that this servant would pay forward his forgiveness. And until that happened, he wasn't going to be relieved from the torturers.
In other words, until you forgive your brother, you're going to experience torture. And in verse 35, we read, "'So,' Jesus says, 'my Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.'"
In conclusion, I bring us to the entire point of this whole message and our time together tonight. Friend, I know, without a doubt, I'm speaking to some of you who are living tortured lives. You're Christians. You're believers in Christ, but your life is tortured.
To close, I want us to turn to Hebrews chapter 12. And that's where we're going to finish tonight-- Hebrews chapter 12. Friend, I'll be very careful, and hopefully not mishandle what it is that I believe the whole point of our time together is, and what we need to take away from tonight.
But for those of you who are living tortured lives, or you know believers in Christ who are living tortured lives, might the torture that you're experiencing be coming from the sin of unforgiveness? Might what's causing your torture actually be the loving discipline of God, in his faithfulness to you, that he's going to allow you to be tortured until you forgive those that you've not yet forgiven?
In Hebrews chapter 12, follow along with me as I begin reading in verse 5. The writer of Hebrews tells the believers, "You've forgotten the exhortation which speaks to us sons, which says, 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you're rebuked by Him. For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.'
Now, if you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons. For what son is there whom a Father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
Furthermore, we've had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For indeed, they, our earthly fathers, indeed, for a few days, chastened us. It seemed best to them.
But God, for our profit, chastens us--" Why? "--so that we might be partakers of His holiness." Your torture, though painful, and perhaps a result of your unforgiveness, could be the very demonstration of God's love and faithfulness to you. And he's brought you to this place right now, this very minute, to come to terms with what's holding you back, and that is unforgiveness.
You see, David wrote in the Psalms, before I was afflicted, I went astray. But now, now I need Your word. You see, some of you are experiencing tortured lives because of bitterness that has come from unforgiveness.
In the same chapter, Hebrews 12, look with me at verses 14 and 15, where we're told, "pursue peace." I love that word, pursue, because it connotes the idea of the hunter pursuing the hunted. It's like those nature channels, where you see that cheetah that's just full stretch, full strength, full speed, going after its prey. That's how we're to pursue peace with all people, "and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord, looking carefully, lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness, springing up, caused trouble. And by this, many have become defiled."
So friend, let me try to bring this home for us. Are you in a marriage that you feel is torturing you? Oh, but you don't know how hard it is to live with him. But have you forgiven him? You don't know what it's like to be berated by her. But have you forgiven her?
Christian, do you feel like your spiritual growth is stunted? Does your relationship with God feel dry? Christian, is your life characterized by a lack of peace? And is it dominated by anxiety?
Is it characterized by mopiness and depression, instead of the joy of the Lord, despite your pain? Is it characterized by chronic anger and grumpiness? Are you always on edge? Do you seem to always be short fused?
Are you experiencing financial distress, relationships stress, perhaps even the inability to experience breakthroughs in overcoming other life-dominating sins? Might you even be experiencing physical illness? Now, let me tell you, God is sovereign. And it is up to Him how He is going to prescribe this torture. And not every time are those things that are experienced that I just listed the result of unforgiveness, or more specifically, the sin of unforgiveness.
But it could be. Its possible. Friend, I'm going to ask you, now, to think of that person, and for some of you, its persons, that you need to forgive. Was it that person that tortured you at work for so many years? Is it that person that stole your life savings? Is it that person that has murdered your loved ones?
Is it, perhaps, that spouse who betrayed you with infidelity, that child that has rejected you? Christian, if that is you, don't lose heart. What we're talking about right now is actually great news, because God is faithfully and lovingly allowing you to realize that what you're experiencing is the chastening of His love as His son or daughter.
Again, verse 35, don't turn there. Jesus says, "So my Heavenly Father--" family relationship-- "will do to each of you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother." That chastening is actually confirmation that you belong to him.
You see, God loves us so much that He'll not allow us to remain in sin. God loves us so much, and He knows He has better days for us. But we have to be forgiving.
One last time, would you look with me at Hebrews chapter 12, verse 11? "No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but rather painful. Nevertheless, afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." How beautiful.
Tonight could be your night of emancipation. Tonight could be the night that you come to terms with what's been hindering you in your progress with Jesus Christ. Tonight could be the night that everything changes in your marriage. Tonight could be the night that everything changes within your workplace.
Tonight could be the night that everything changes within you, in the quietness of your heart, when your head is upon that pillow, and it's silent in the home, and all you can do is think about how you've been hurt, or betrayed, or stolen from. But you've got to forgive.
So this is what's going to happen. God is asking of us right now that for any of those that we've yet to forgive, that today, now, we release them. We set them free. We let it go. We tell God, God, I'm ready, and I want to forgive.
Now, for some of us, that's going to result, in the next days, or coming days, that you're going to actually voice your forgiveness to that person or to those people, perhaps in a meeting. Perhaps you're going to write them, snail mail or an email. You're going to express your forgiveness of them.
And just to give you caution, there are some of you who have hurt you in ways that are still yet dangerous. So if there be any question if you should contact this person, or those people, because of existing danger, I'm going to ask that before you contact them, that you get around those people that are closest to you, and you ask them for some guidance and some direction, and perhaps even some assistance.
They might tell you, you know what? It's not wise to contact them at all. That's very possible. And if any of you need some input from me or any of the other pastors, we'd be happy to help you walk through that.
But what God does want is an internal commitment that you're going to forgive. Maybe on the other side of that forgiveness, that torture you've been experiencing will be over. Let's pray.
Father, I believe that's the gift that you're giving us tonight. For those of us who have been living tortured lives, and tortured marriages, or tortured families, or tortured work environments, or tortured internal turmoil, torture within the legal system or the justice system, we have to forgive. You know each of us by name, and you know those people that we have to forgive.
And so, God, give us the grace and the power by Your Holy Spirit to have the courage to come forth before You, and release them, and let them go. And Lord, if there be any here who haven't been struggling with this, I just ask, on behalf of we as a church, that You bring people to us that are indeed struggling with this, and that You would enable us to help them and walk with them through their journey of forgiving others as you've forgiven us.
We thank you, Lord. We gratefully ask all of this is, as always, in the name of our great forgiver and our great savior, the Lord of all, Jesus Christ. Amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshipping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying His work, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.