The Business of Forgiveness

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Last updated on February 5th, 2024 at 10:06 pm

Today’s sermon at church was one on forgiveness. Forgiving people is hard—VERY VERY HARD. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but there ARE people in my life who I currently consider to be unforgivable. (Actually, there’s only one person who comes to mind currently holding this title, but enough have gotten pretty close!)

But we NEED to forgive. Not only from a religious standpoint, but for our own mental and emotional health—not forgiving others is like carrying an unnecessary burden that’ll only weigh you down, make you sluggish and bring your enjoyment of life lower than it could be.

Consider this Bible verse:

Matthew 18:23-35 (The Message)

23-25“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

26-27“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

28“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

29-31“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

32-35“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Now, to provide a little better context:

  • Originally, it wasn’t $100,000, but ten thousand talents. Considering that one talent is estimated to be worth $1.8 million US at the current price of gold, the servant owed around EIGHTEEN BILLION US DOLLARS.
  • Similarly, the other servant originally owed one hundred denarii as opposed to the ten dollars shown here. The denarius isn’t as easy to value, but estimates have it somewhere around $21 US. So he owed $2,100.
  • Thus, in the revised version, the first servant owed ten thousand times what the second owed. But in the ORIGINAL, it was FAR more severe at somewhere around 8.6 MILLION TIMES.

The numbers, however, aren’t the point. The point is that you can’t seek forgiveness from someone if you’re going to spurn another instead of forgiving them. Forgiveness is something that should be universal and not something that we receive without being just as ready to provide the same mercy to others.

So if only he had shown his fellow servant the same kindness he had been shown, he wouldn’t have wound up in such a sticky situation.

Life today is not without its parallels to this kind of situation. These are some of the situations I’ve come across that happen because one person can’t forgive the other:

  • Because they can’t be in the same room, either one might decline an event at any moment due to the other being there—or the organizer(s) have to choose which of the two to invite
  • In more extreme cases, parents won’t allow their children to be friends because of a long-standing feud
  • Families are torn apart due to one person holding a grudge…

…and the list could go on for quite a while. Is it really worth it to hold a grudge against someone else? How long will the original reason for being angry at them be worthwhile? A day? A month? A year? Or is it really so bad that you won’t be able to forgive them for your entire life?

If you Google “families forgiving killers” for instance, you’ll see plenty of examples of families forgiving the killers who took a loved one from them. Now call me naïve, but I’d gamble that a good number of the reasons out there for grudges just AREN’T worth it. (Though there are plenty that are, and I don’t want to downplay it if someone is causing you real, sincere pain.)

So consider making your life a little less bitter. It goes down rough, the aftertaste sucks, and it ruins the taste of just about everything else.

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad



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