Forgiving others is not something that we come by naturally. There is a lot of truth in the saying, “To err is human; to forgive divine.” The Psalmist does a good job of describing this forgiveness, “God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” (Psalm 103:10-12).
Forgiveness is something that is found at the heart and core of God’s relationship to us and ours to God. By extension it travels through us to everyone around us. The key to understanding this subject is found in God’s willingness to forgive our sins. In Matthew 18: 21-35, when Peter asked, ‘How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times,” Jesus told him it should be seventy times seven or 490 times. Jesus’ point is not that there is a limit to the number of times we are to forgive. Quite the contrary. We are to forgive others as often as necessary.
Then Jesus told the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-25). It is a story that gives us insight into how God things and deals with mankind. It is clear that the master in the parable is God and the servant with a debt represents each one of us. The servants debt is so large that he could not pay it off in a thousand life times. When told he must go to debtors prison, he pleaded for mercy. He received it. The master forgave him the entire debt.
That’s the way that our loving and merciful God has done for us. He has taken our sins, sins we commit hundreds of times each day, day in and day out, year in and year out, and wipes the slate clean. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Instead of sending us to heaven as we deserve, he forgave us. He punished Jesus in our place.
As Jesus’ parable clearly teaches, God wants us, who have come to know God’s forgiveness first hand, to show it to those who sin against us. We are to forgive, not just those we love, not just our children, siblings, spouse, and parents, but even our enemies. We are to forgive them with no limits, full and free. No grudges, no getting even, no hard will, just mercy and love. Sounds impossible?! It is because we are not God. We have a sinful nature. Yet, with God’s help, we can do what we would never be able to do on our own. Let them see God’s love in you and through you by your forgiveness.