My daughter read the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor last night in Matthew 18:21-35 before going to bed. As usual, after reading it, I asked her questions about what she remembered from the reading. First, I asked specifics about the details of the story, and she remembered most of it.Then, I asked her how this might apply to us. I asked her, “What kind of debt do we have that needs to be paid?”
She answered, “Our sin.”
So I asked her about sin, and she told me about sin being our choice to do things our way and not God’s way – we discussed that it separates us from God and from His will for our best life as part of His Kingdom. It’s amazing what her 5 year old mind grasps, understands, and recognizes so clearly and unwaveringly.
Then, I asked about how our debt is paid, and she told me about Jesus on the cross, His blood, His death, His resurrection. Yes, this was the milk, the part that we drink down quickly like a smooth, refreshing gulp to quench or thirst. The Word that brings us Hope in the promises brought to light in Christ on the cross. Yes, so much Hope is clearly evident when we stop and rest in this Hope.
So we press on to the solid food –
I ask, “What did the man do after he was forgiven? ”
And she told me about the man that owed him some money, and that he was mean to that man. She realized that the man who had received the promise of mercy by the king had not learned mercy – had not learned love – had not received any wisdom or understanding from the king’s beautiful example. This man proved that he was not like the king in how he treated others.
And we talked about the lesson and applied it to her daily life at school and in the world. We even used her favorite stuffed animals, Franny and Rudolph, to play out a scenario. I explained that even if someone is mean or hurtful to us, that we are to ALWAYS offer them forgiveness in return for an apology because we have been forgiven so much by Jesus.
I explained that we offer forgiveness because we want them to repent and be forgiven – so that they can be freed from sin -so that they can be drawn close to the Lord – so their unforgiven sin does not take root and build a stronghold between them and God’s plan for their life – and so that we don’t allow our own pride or unforgiveness towards someone else to create the same distance in us from God’s loving and merciful nature and presence.
Remembering the lesson from our reading the night before(Matthew 18:15-20 Correcting Another Believer), I then asked her how we are supposed to handle this situation if they say they are a Christian, but they won’t acknowledge the wrong they have done to us, apologize, won’t accept the forgiveness we are offering them, and won’t repent.
She said, “We go to them in private.”
And we talked about how that means that we go to just that person – not to others to grumble and gossip – and how it says we will either win that person back into fellowship, or after a process of trying to help them be freed from their rebellion, and after multiple attempts to lovingly and gently restore the person, they will find themselves separated.
We talked about how we want to be close to God and to other believers and to share the love of Christ freely available to any who would receive and accept forgiveness and repent, but that we can’t force anyone to learn the very mercy, love, and forgiveness that we have offered them and that Christ offers them. And that some, like the Unforgiving Debtor, will find their hope in a forgiven debt unfounded, because they never knew, they never understood, they never received Christ into their lives to live and abide and grow and remain with Him.
Today, I encourage you that your debt does not have to be your own to repay.
Faith in Jesus Christ.
Not religious practice/ceremony/obligation.
Not trying to comply to a set of rules in order to earn you something.
Not ignoring the character and nature and guidance and godly wisdom of the Word of God to do it your own way.
Not claiming forgiveness for yourself while withholding it from others.
But extending the same love and mercy and forgiveness received – purely out of gratitude for what Christ did on the cross for us – not because we think someone does or does not deserve it by their lives, their actions, their words, their thoughts, their sinfulness.
No one deserves God’s grace – not even you, religious hypocrite – not even you, proud sinner – not even you, broken hearted and hopeless at the end of yourself.
We deserve the pit. We deserve the chains of this slavery and rebellion we have chosen at some point in our lives.
Yes, we deserve separation. Our own words testify to our rightly deserved destination when we speak of the law that we have found so many ways to break ourselves – if we do not offer this free salvation in Christ to all who would come and drink new life in Christ.
What are you drinking today, friend?
What are you pouring out for others?
Is it life? Or death?
Is it Christ on the cross offered freely to all who would come to Him brokenhearted and unworthy?
Or is it religion and law that only serves to shine light on our need for Christ alone, the cornerstone?
Are you withholding forgiveness, freedom, life from those around you?
Do you have it yourself?
Look closely at that deceitful heart, past its treacherous snares – does Christ live there? Will you invite Him in?
Will you pleadingly knock at His door until He answers?
Will you answer when He knocks at yours?
Do you hear Him calling you now?
Come near to Him, child. Be forgiven. Be loved. Be restored to fellowship with Him and with your brothers and sisters. Do not delay. Do not waver. Come now.