“Forgive and forget.” Do you remember being told those words? It probably occurred during an instance where you were in conflict with someone else. Maybe it was an argument with a close friend where you felt that you had been hurt deeply. Perhaps it was a dispute with a sibling, and you felt that you had been wronged. It may have even been a situation at school or at work where you felt that justice was not served. This phrase would have been uttered by the person trying to cool you down and help you through this moment. Whether it was mom, dad, a grandparent, or a teacher, many of us can recall this advice during moments like these: “Forgive and forget…”
For most of us, our natural reaction when we have been hurt, wronged, or slighted is to enact revenge or to get even with those that have caused us to feel this way. We feel right and vindicated when we attempt to make them feel as horrible and rotten as we are, and some can go to great lengths thinking up ways to get back at others. There are many times when we don’t even think about any other option. Our natural, sinful, broken tendency when we are hit is to hit back. How much time and energy can we be tempted to waste when we think this way? This is one of the many reasons we need a Savior!
As difficult as it can be for us to forgive others at times, it can be even harder to forget. You may think of a case in your own life where you have forgiven someone but are still carrying around a grudge or some animosity toward them for what they have done. All of us can be tempted to not truly let go of our inner nature to hold on and return evil for evil. And let’s be honest, this idea of forgiveness is hard, it’s challenging, and it goes against how we might naturally think and operate on our own. There are some of you that have been wronged, hurt, and slighted so often and to the point of immense, emotional pain that forgiveness isn’t even on your radar. Many of us can think at times of those that have sinned against us and think, “I could never forgive them…”
It is in this raw reality that Jesus enters the scene with a parable that is quite well-known to many. In Matthew 18, He tells the story of a servant who was forgiven an unpayable debt by a king. Upon having this debt removed, this servant sought out a fellow servant who owed him some money as well. But his intent was quite different than the reaction he had just received from the king. Rather than showing the same mercy and grace that he was just shown, this servant demands repayment. He has his fellow servant thrown in jail to pay back the debt. Let’s just say that the king was not happy to hear about this and instills some harsh justice on the servant for his wicked actions.
The lesson from Jesus comes to us today: On our own, we will never be able to truly forgive someone. We will remember, we will hold grudges, we will seek revenge. Only God can create the ability to even think about offering and extending forgiveness toward someone who has wronged us. This kind of forgiveness can only flow out of a life that has experienced an out-of-this-world forgiveness that God, our Merciful King, offers to us as members of His Kingdom.
We are forgiven people. We have been forgiven much! God has given us a clean slate and a new ledger and the debt that we owe for our sin and rebellion against Him has been paid. Isn’t that Good News?! When you know that you are loved like that, when you receive that undeserved mercy, when you live in the freedom that this forgiveness brings, how might that shift and transform your view of those who have and will hurt and wrong you? When we realize and recognize how much we have been forgiven, that makes it possible for us to truly forgive others from the heart. As another saying goes, “Forgiveness known is forgiveness shown.”
Pastor Ben Bigaouette