Do You Ever See Yourself In The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor?

by Kristen Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings

Two girls looking at each other - one sitting on top of high brick wall, one sitting on ground below

Am I sitting on high and you below, or are we all below and God's on high?

I am a failure. I don’t do everything I should do. And I do plenty of things I shouldn’t. I need a perfect Savior.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! He has saved me and made me righteous through His blood shed for all of my sins. He has loved me in spite of my hatred of Him when I was dead in my sins. He has forgiven all of my sins and made me alive in Christ. He has endured with me, remaining faithful to His promises even when I have faithlessly turned from Him. He has not let me go or allowed anyone to snatch me from His hand.

What have I done to deserve any of this? Nothing. What have I earned by my own deeds? Death. Judgment. Hell. But that’s not what God gives to me. No, He’s given me life in Christ because of His graciousness and lovingkindness poured out upon my life. Not because I’ve done enough to merit it.

When I forget the grace by which I am saved, I get into trouble and am again in need of rescue. This is where I found myself this week, after a year-long battle to forgive a debt.

For the past year I’ve been keeping score of the faults of someone I deal directly with every day, because their actions and words were offensive and disagreeable to me. And although their less than upright behavior has mostly been directed toward others who I care about in our shared environment, I have taken great personal offense from and born a growing grudge in my heart toward this person. At first, I didn’t even realize I was harboring unforgiveness or growing with a desire to see them exposed and brought to judgment. But something evil began to eat away at my heart.

I had no respect for this person, no desire to help and serve them, even though it’s what I’m called to do. On the contrary, I found this deadly desire in my heart to hurt them with my words, to point out their flaws and make them look foolish. I don’t remember ever wanting to do these things to anyone in my life! Well, there was my sometimes annoying older brother. But that was never like this!

Every day I’d come home from work feeling restless and torn by competing desires in my heart: on the one hand, I wanted to be free from the control of this bitter unforgiveness and desire for judgment. On the other, I wanted vengeance—on my terms, by my hands. I wanted this person to pay for their mistakes and offenses. And as often as I’ve prayed to the Lord to change my heart and help me to let go, I’ve struggled to be like Christ in this situation. No, I have failed to be like Christ.

This week God showed me myself in a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 18 about an unforgiving debtor. In the story, a man owed an insurmountable debt to his Master (think, MILLIONS). He was distraught because of his helplessness to pay it back, so he pleaded to be forgiven of the debt. To his surprise, the Master had compassion and pity on him and forgave the entire debt.

But then this forgiven servant cornered another servant who owed him an insignificant amount compared to the millions he’d just been forgiven, and he demanded payment and threatened to harm the man if he didn’t pay. When the Master found out about this atrocity he confronted the first servant exclaiming,

“‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have had 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.” Jesus drove the point home by saying, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Talk about sobering. This cut through my heart, and I needed it to. I needed to see myself in this story. I needed to remember that I owed millions and have been forgiven entirely. I needed to remember God’s grace poured out to me, so that I would finally understand that I’d forgotten it and as a result had been incapable of showing grace and forgiveness to someone indebted to me.

It’s not that I completely forgot the gospel in every area of my life. Rather, throughout the past year I’ve continued to share it with others, read and sing about it day after day. But in this particular situation, I’d been blinded by my bitterness and couldn’t see the obvious offensiveness of my unforgiveness. I thought I was just being righteously angry. But my grudge-bearing was offensive to Christ who has forgiven me entirely, justified me and made me righteous through nothing less than the sacrifice of His own life.

He, the perfect, unblemished, sinless Lamb of God, bore my sins in His body on the cross and suffered in my place! I deserved that death—it was my debt to pay! But because He is good, merciful, just and glorious in His plan of salvation for mankind, He absolved me of my debt and cancelled it by nailing it to the cross! I am free! I am forgiven! I am saved!

By grace through faith alone–this is the gift of God, not based upon my works so that I can boast in nothing and no one else save Christ alone.

This morning I again pleaded with the Lord to forgive me for harboring bitter unforgiveness and keeping a record of the wrongs another person had done. I pleaded guilty as charged and begged for mercy based on the merits of Christ. I chose to let go of the grudge and absolve my offender of their debt. And God forgave me and all my guilt is gone—again! (see Psalm 32)

The gospel is truly glorious and we cannot afford to forget it in ANY area of our lives. But if we do, God is faithful and just to forgive us when we confess our failures. Let’s encourage one another daily to remember the grace by which we have been saved. Let’s cherish it, drink it in, sing about it—letting it fill our hearts and lungs. This is our story and it should be the theme of our songs in praise of our Savior for His boundless grace to us all the day long.

Photo by Sojourn communications intern Chelsey Scott

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