As we continued with our series on the Lord’s Prayer this past Sunday, we came to the statement, “Forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who trespass against us.” As we looked at this difficult petition we also examined the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. In order to understand the full impact of this story, consider this question: Whose forgiveness came first?
The answer is of course the king’s forgiveness came first. It’s in light if his great forgiveness that this servant’s unforgiving spirit is such a terrible thing.The king in the story is God, and you and I are like that unforgiving servant. We’re called in before Almighty God and when the story of our lives is read, there is a mountain of debt between God and us. It’s so high we can’t get over it, so wide we can’t get around it, so deep we can’t crawl under it. So we fall on our knees and cry out to God, “O God, have mercy on me!” God looks down at us and he says, “You don’t deserve it but for Jesus’ sake I will forgive you.” In one great moment of grace that mountain of debt is swept away and we rise to our feet, walk out of church singing to ourselves, “Lord, We Lift Your Name on High.” and “Amazing Grace How Sweet The Sound.”
But we no sooner reach the parking lot we see somebody who has wronged us and suddenly the joy disappears and we are so upset we could choke them. No wonder we’re so unhappy. No wonder we’re so frustrated. No wonder we can’t sleep at night. No wonder we have ulcers and headaches. No wonder we carry grudges. No wonder we are depressed and confused. It has happened to us exactly as Jesus said. We suffer because we who have been forgiven have harbored an unforgiving spirit.
We hand ourselves over to the torturers. The hidden torturers of anger and bitterness that eat your insides out, the torturers of frustration and malice give you ulcers and high blood pressure and migraine headaches, the torturers that make you lie awake at night stewing over every rotten thing that happens to you, the hidden torturers of an unforgiving heart who suck every bit of joy from your heart.
Why? Because you will not forgive from the heart. Do not be tortured any longer. Do not suffer from an unforgiving spirit. Seek peace from God and with God by continuing the cycle of grace. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”