Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)
Verse 21Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Verse 22Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Verse 23"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. Verse 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; Verse 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. Verse 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' Verse 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. Verse 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Verse 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' Verse 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. Verse 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Verse 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Verse 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' Verse 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. Verse 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
Peter’s question to Jesus does not seem so strange. Like Peter it is natural for us to want to put a limit on forgiveness. In response to Peter’s question about such limits, Jesus tells a story in which the graciousness of a master to forgive the colossal debt of a first slave stands in stark contrast to the mean-spirited unwillingness of that slave to forgive the paltry debt of his fellow slave. If God were to put a limit on forgiveness, where would we stand? If God were to carefully count up all of the times we have messed up and hold it against us—like compound interest—we would never be free from our slavery to sin. How amazing is God’s grace and forgiveness! May we gain a renewed appreciation for the depth of God’s love and gift of salvation; and may we be inspired to be gracious and forgiving of others.
Holy Spirit, open our minds and hearts so that we gain a renewed appreciation of your great mercy and love for us. Amen.