God's grace

How the word “until” destroys forgiveness

[Matthew 18:23-34 ESV]  26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 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.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

This past Sunday in our church, we studied the words Jesus said while on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  In response, Jesus says 70 x 7 and He then tells a parable.  The parable is about a king that releases the debt of his servant …but the servant treats others differently and imprisons another servant until his debt is paid.  This is an obvious parable of how we should forgive others…especially in light of the forgiveness we receive from God.  When we surrender our life to Christ (become His servant) and plead for God’s mercy, we are “released” of our debt (penalty for our sin – Romans 6:23) … because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As believers and followers of Christ – because God has forgiven us – we are to forgive others.

The parable of Jesus gives us a powerful lesson on our forgiveness of others.  There are 2 key words that stood out to me in our study.  The king immediately released the servant from his debt.  The king did NOT work out a payment plan, did NOT defer the penalty to a later date, did NOT make the servant work it off – not because of works … He did NOT require anything in return.  He also didnt simply overlook or ignore the debt.  He simply released the servant from the debt.

On the other hand, the forgiven servant was not going to forgive the debt of the other servant until it was paid.

Sound familiar?  We often want some kind of “payment” from the other person before we release them.

  • I will not forgive until he pays for what he did.
  • I will not forgive until he says “I’m sorry.”
  • I will not forgive him until I know it won’t happen again.
  • I will not forgive until I can trust her.
  • I cannot not forgive until _________________

As seen in the parable, there is freedom when we receive forgiveness but there’s also “prison” if we withhold forgiveness and not “release” others that have wronged us.

Need to find freedom?  Be willing to forgive – release the debt – with no strings attached and ignore the word “until.”