The Lost Art of Forgiveness

By: Louis Grams

From the 1985 Christians in Commerce Archives

Matthew 18: 32-35


… “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

In this challenging parable of forgiveness, Jesus strikes at the heart of those who need to forgive others and those who need to be forgiven. He makes it clear that our master is always extending his forgiveness to us. He also makes it clear that receiving God's forgiveness for our sins carries with it the responsibility to forgive as freely as he does. Ouch!

Our society has a hard time with the notion of forgiveness. It is sometimes treated as a commodity that can be tossed off without pain, effort or meaning. It disappears within the "Love means never having to say you're sorry" syndrome, in which nothing needs to be forgiven.

"Forgiveness" can be dispensed with an underlying tone of resentment and "I'll get even with you". Some mete out forgiveness only after exacting some penalty or punishment in paying for it. Many "forgive" but never "forget".

Some never forgive at all. They spend their lives recalling every wrong or hurt done to them. They harbor resentment, which yields bitterness. Their bitterness surfaces as anger, cynicism and distrust. In some, it reaps a harvest of hatred and verbal or even physical violence. It also can carry a personal cost of stress or even sickness.

Unforgiveness is more common in our culture than genuine, openhanded forgiveness, yet Jesus and our own experiences tell us that the price of not forgiving others will be deadly for us in the end. Having been forgiven by Jesus for wrongs far greater than any that could be done against us, we have no legitimate claim to withholding our forgiveness from anyone else.

TAKE THE CHALLENGE: How often does God need to forgive you? What does his forgiveness cost you? What have you done to deserve it? Ask him to help you see all of the many ways in which he has enriched your life through forgiveness from himself and others.