Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
How terrible our sins are! Jesus gave one effective way to deal with sins. The power of temptations to sins is so great that it is very hard to resist. We often become a prey of temptations. Jesus said,
So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. (Matthew 18:8-9)
What is the solution against temptations? As soon as any temptation for a sin surfaces up in our mind, immediately cut it off, then throw it away. Don’t provide any opportunity for the temptation to causes us to sin. Instead, hold tight Jesus Christ’s hand, and take off the temptation while fixing our eyes on Jesus. Why does Jesus ask us to harshly deal with temptations? Jesus himself experienced the enormous power of temptations. After the 40 days of fasting, Satan directly attacked the weakest part of Jesus – hunger. Jesus fought back with God’s Word. He did not give any chance to the temptation and immediately cut it off with God’s Word. When temptations come into our lives, as Jesus did, we have to deal with them firmly and decisively.
The next question is how to deal with sins committed against us by the others? Should we deal with those sins and the offenders firmly and decisively like our own sins? Of course, not. Jesus dealt with mercies. Even today, Jesus is dealing with us with His mercies by forgiving our sins regardless how sinful our sins really are. The answer is obvious. We should forgive those who sin against us as Jesus has forgiven us. As a result, forgiving others and their sins should become a part of our lives, if we truly live out the life of Jesus. As matter of fact, this plain but profoundly importance of forgiveness is clearly reflected in Lord Prayer.
One day, one of Jesus disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Then Jesus taught how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer. In His Lord’s prayer, Jesus said:
“and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)
How many times have we recited Lord Prayer? Every time when we recite, we, in fact, say to God, “before we ask God’s forgiveness, we first forgive those who sin against us.” As we know, sinning is always with us. Many of our sins are offending others. This is the sad reality that we cannot avoid as long as we are on earth. Only when see we Our Lord’s face, this inevitability will leave us.
One day, Peter, who was always vocal and outgoing, came to Jesus, and asked “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” As Jesus’ disciples, Peter saw and learned from Jesus, who was always merciful and gracious to sinners. Peter could vividly remember the woman who was caught while she was sinning. People brought the woman to Jesus, and they asked Jesus whether they stoned her to death. Jesus was silent for a while, and slowly told the people, “one who does not have a sin throws a stone at her first.” Then Jesus waited calmly and silently. From the old men and the young ones, one by one, they dropped stones from their hands, and left the scene.
Jesus was left alone with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” the woman accused said.
And Jesus said,
“Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11b)
Jesus completely forgave the woman, and gave one warming – sin no more. Peter clearly remembered how Jesus forgave her. Peter thought about a case that someone repetitively sinned against himself. “How many times should I forgive? Forgiving once is not easy. Forgiving twice is even harder.”
Peter stretched his forgiving mind as much as he could, and questioned “forgiving seven times?” As a human being, it is very difficult to forgive someone who sins against us. Our heart always says justice on the offender instead of mercy not like Jesus. Suppressing this fundamental human nature is the struggle that everybody confronts with. Let’s frankly ask to ourselves, how many times have we forgiven a same offender? Have we forgiven once? Many of us might have some memories of forgiving one-time offense. Then how about the second time offence from the same person, let alone third time offence? Surely, it would be getting hard to remember such occasions Forgiving fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh offence from the same person? Certainly, it is impossible for us to remember such occasions. Forgiving once or twice might be doable, but forgiving three times or more is essentially outside of the realm of our own mercy. Peter was quite sure about this. He thought that forgiving seven times was far beyond and impossible for any human beings.
What was Jesus’ answer to the Peter’s question? It was completely out of expectation of Peter:
No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:22)
Hmm. Can anyone literally forgive the same offender 490 times (70×7=490)? This is certainly not the number that any human beings can actually do. Inevitably, it is impossible. Then why did Jesus tell this impossibility to Peter?
Jesus graciously continue teaching Peter by telling a story:
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.”
Literally, how much money did the servant owe to the king? 1 talent is 6,000 denarii. One denarius is one day’s wages. This means that 1 talent is roughly 16 years’ wages. 1000 talents mean 16,000 years’ wages. Depending on the daily wages, the actual value could vary, but it is a ridiculously huge sum of money. Please do this: think about how much you make per year, and multiply 16,000 times to what you make yearly. This is the money that we are talking about As an ordinary person, there is no way to pay back this amount of money. It is essentially an infinite amount of money to an ordinary person like you and me.
Spiritually speaking, we are forgiven this much debts (i.e., sins) from God through the blood of Jesus Christ, which we cannot pay back with any means that we have. (How many people in the world do actually try to pay back the debts by doing good works? Now we know how foolish such attempt is. Jesus is the only way, and only by the faith, we can come to Jesus.)
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then the king was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.”
The king felt pity on the servant, and he gave his mercy by forgiving his debt – 16,000 years wages! How blessed the servant was! Spiritually speaking, we are forgiven that much (or more) by God through His mercy. How grateful we should be before God! This is one of the reasons why we, Christians, are always grateful before God, Our Ever-Loving Father. Let’s continue hearing the rest of the Jesus’ story.
“But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.”
How much is the one hundred denarii? As talked about before, one denarius is one day’s wages. Thus, it is 100 days’ worth of wages, which is not a small amount of money. However, when it is compared with the 100 talents forgiven, it is truly minuscule. Here is a math: 16,000*365/100 = 58,400. Roughly speaking, it is about 58,000 times more than what is owed by the fellow servant. The servant could not forgive the other servant’s debt, which was about 58,000 times smaller. This is plainly ridiculous.
Spiritually speaking, this tells the gravity and size of our sins forgiven by God, and how small sins committed against us by others are. Those sins are often as insignificant as making us unpleasant, unhappy, etc, but we tend to make big deals about these insignificant sins against us. Jesus’ story continues:
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 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. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.”
The people around the unforgiving servant were very uncomfortable, and couldn’t be silent any more. They came to the king and told what the unforgiving servant did to the other servant. Upon hearing the complaints of the people, the king summoned the unforgiving servant, and asked, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” The unforgiving servant could not say a single word. The angry king put him in prison until he had paid his entire debts, which was impossible for him to pay back.
Today, Jesus asks us the same question, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?” What is our answer to Our Lord and King, Jesus?
Then Jesus concluded,
That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
Sinning against us by others is inevitable. But we should forgive others from our heart as Jesus always forgives us. This is what God, Our Ever-Loving Father wants, and we can forgive in Him through His love and mercy. If somebody offend us, remember the story of unforgiving servant, and forgive the offender while fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ. The power of the love of Jesus Christ surely makes us to forgive not just once, even seven times or even seventy times seven. Give thanks to Jesus, who gives us strength and power of forgiveness in Him! Praise Him!
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)