Pew Sermon – Matthew 18: 21-35

Forgiveness is important, not just for the perpetrator, but for the victim, helping them to break away from the anger and bitterness which could freeze them in the past and destroy their hope in the future.

Today’s gospel reading is about forgiveness and shows how important it is for Christians to practice it.

And Jesus is teaching His disciples about unlimited forgiveness; 

Jesus explains in the parable.

The servant who owed 10 thousand talents was probably a high official responsible for delivering the taxes from the province that he oversaw.

Yet when the servant begged to be given more time, the king was compassionate and went beyond his request, forgiving him the entire debt.

The king expected his generosity to affect the man’s behaviour towards others, but instead the servant found someone who owed him three month’s wages; a tiny amount compared to the servant’s own debt and demanded payment.

The key to this parable lies in the king’s furious words,

“Should you not have had mercy upon your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” 

If we truly understand how immeasurable a debt God has forgiven us, we will forgive others the comparably much smaller sins they commit against us. 

There are some common misunderstandings about what forgiveness means in practice which are worth refuting;

The first misunderstanding; To forgive you must always forget:

This is not always realistic when serious crimes have been committed.

Forgiveness does not necessarily involve forgetting but it does affect how we take those memories into the future, preventing them consuming us with hatred and vindictiveness. 

Our second misunderstanding; Forgiveness always brings reconciliation:

Whilst that is often so, there are times when reconciliation simply isn’t a safe or sensible optionas might be the case in abusive relationships, for instance.

Another misunderstanding is that Forgiveness involves denying that our hurt matters:

We can think that forgiveness involves playing down the significance of what has happened to us.

But if forgiveness is to be true and lasting it must involve confronting sin and being honest about our pain.

Forgiveness is often a gradual process, one which takes time and for which we may need the help of others.

To rush through it by sweeping pain under the carpet can be dangerous.

By asking us to forgive, God isn’t overlooking the seriousness of sin but asking us to leave any retribution to him.

We can’t help how we feel, but we can help how we act.

Sometimes we may think that Forgiveness is primarily about our feelings:

But actually, forgiveness is an act of will, a choice which affects how we behave.

We may well struggle with negative feelings, even after forgiving someone, but God is concerned with our willingness to try, not our instant success, and He will be there to help us. 

For Jesus, forgiveness and our participation in it, are fundamental signs of the kingdom of God.

By practicing forgiveness, we show that we fully comprehend how much God has loved and forgiven us;

and through it, by practicing forgiveness, we can know the joy of working with Him to pass on the grace that we ourselves have experienced.