A Harsh Reality

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The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor (Matthew 18:21-35) offers us who like to think we are Christians, a harsh reality: Forgive—you’re in. Don’t forgive—you’re out. And, of course, Jesus is talking about Heaven in that parable.

I find it interesting that a debtor and money was used in the parable because it is both money and debt that can so easily twist the human mind and, yes, the soul away from living a Godly life. In this particular parable the debtor owed an enormous sum to the king, who ultimately forgave the man and his debt, and spared him the harsh punishment befitting of a debtor. What I saw in this was that the King was not ruled by his money—it didn’t twist his thinking.

But lo, the just recent debtor evidently wasn’t humbled by his experience with the forgiving king. Quite the opposite, in fact. It almost seems as if the guy was great at compartmentalizing. His debt and the forgiveness he received was tucked away in the “well, that’s over” corner of his mind, and his thoughts immediately turned to the (gasp!) scoundrel who owed him money. I can almost hear what he was thinking—“I’m going to get that so and so NOW!” And, he did. He treated that guy exactly like he would have been treated had not the king had indescribable mercy on him.

The king, when he found that out, went into full “shame on” mode: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”….and he slammed the unmerciful debtor straight to debtors prison.

God’s unrelenting forgiveness for us all is, by all rights, indescribable mercy. None of us deserve the full measure of the mercy He extends to us. And, truth is, many times we are begging for His forgiveness just as the debtor did. And He forgives us, just like He did the debtor. Our problem starts when we lose sight of the depth of that forgiveness and decide or choose not to forgive one who we perceive has harmed us in some way. I forget the unwarranted mercy I have been extended by the One, because my twisted head tells me that I need my pound of flesh. I need to remember that it all boils down to that harsh reality, and do I want to follow the example of my King, or do I want to do it my way. If He can forgive me, then without any question I can forgive others.

-Joe Miller


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