Pastor Marcus Blair, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Centralia
You never look more like your heavenly Father than when you forgive. It’s who he is! Merciful,
graceful, forgiving. To forgive someone is to release them from debt. That’s the meaning of the Greek word for “Forgive” – “to release from debt, to pardon.” If you forgive, you are releasing them from debt – they don’t owe you anything anymore, and you are moving on.
This is the best course of action, because we all know that most of the time, the apology you demand isn’t going to come. The repayment of what was taken from you isn’t going to come. The punishment you want that person to have isn’t going to come. All that’s going to happen when you won’t release them, is you are burning yourself up inside. Unforgiveness only hurts YOU, never your enemy.
This is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, and it shows us some important things about forgiveness. The first servant owed an enormous debt. Does that remind you of anyone? It ought to remind me of ME. Because of my thousands of sins, I owed God a debt I could never pay. No matter how much good I ever did, no matter how much I might try to make up for all the wrongs I’ve committed, I could never settle my account with God.
You know what happened? In came Jesus. He paid a debt he did not owe. He paid my debt, and your debt with his shed blood. He pardoned us, released us, had mercy on us. Praise God for his unending mercy! So we are like this servant – we owe so much, all we can do is fall down and beg for mercy. Have you been there? I’ve been there. I’ve fallen at the feet of Jesus and begged him to forgive! And you know what? He did! I’m released, I’m restored, my account is settled because of the work of Jesus on the cross.
A person who has been forgiven much should be able to love much. A person whose enormous debt has been cleared should have a very easy time extending that same grace to other people, right? But what did the servant do in the story? He went and found a man who owed him a smaller debt. The man fell down, pleaded with him, begged for mercy. But the servant, astonishingly, after having been forgiven so much, would not forgive the man who owed him a relatively small amount. He got him around the throat and had him thrown in prison until he could pay.
This is what it looks like to be forgiven, but to not forgive others. The end result for that wicked, unforgiving servant was torment. Torture. When you won’t forgive others, you will be tormented. You will be tormented inside, tortured in your spiritual walk, burning up in your own heart, because of the unforgiveness within you. It won’t hurt the one who owes you; it’ll hurt YOU.
So how do you forgive someone? I know some of you have been through enormous, incalculable hurt. I know how the anger, the resentment inside of you burns. And I am not trivializing or minimizing what you’ve been through. Some of you have anger for family members who did you so wrong, people would be amazed to know what you have endured. But even if it’s tough, even if it’s the hard road, God wants us to forgive.
We do not have to forget. We will always remember what they did. There’s no spiritual amnesia. We also do not have to trust that person again. But to forgive is to release debt, and you can do that without compromising your morals, or letting them get away with it. What you do is turn them over to God.
Instead of holding onto the bitterness and the wrath you feel inside, you turn their account over to God, knowing that he is the one who will pay people back for what they did. Your unforgiveness won’t bring the punishment you want them to have. It’s only going to torment you. So turn their debt over to God – “I know God is a perfect judge, and no one is getting away with anything. Everyone will someday stand before the judgement seat and give account of their actions. I’m going to let God settle this, and I am releasing that debt from my heart.”
See, whether that person ever repents, or apologizes, or wises up, or fixes what they broke, I thank God that I can release people and be free. That’s what God wants for us: to let him do the work of judgement and payback, and for us to be free from the bondage and hurt and torment of unforgiveness.