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Cost of Forgiveness

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When a child is caught doing something wrong and he is faced with punishment, he often begs for forgiveness.  When a criminal is caught, he too often asks or begs for forgiveness.  When we sin, we are taught to ask for forgiveness.  Yet in the prayer that Jesus taught the disciples, the words are, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” [Matthew 6.12]  Indeed, Jesus went as far as teaching, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6.15]  That sounds fair, for after all God forgave you, so you should forgive.

That seems to be the message of the parable of the unmerciful servant as well.  After all, the first servant had been forgiven of a much larger debt, so he should forgive the smaller debt.  But he couldn’t.  Why?  Because the money that was owed to him was his hard earned money, but the money forgiven him was not his own.  He was appreciative of being forgiven of the debt, but he never worked for the money.  He did not labour and slave for the money.  He was loaned the money.  He got it without raising a sweat.  But now, the much smaller amount that his fellow servant owed him was his money which he worked for.  It meant something to him and he could not let it go.

Forgiveness has a price.  It is one thing to ask God to forgive us.  It would be like the servant being forgiven his debt by his master.  To be forgiven of a debt is to be forgiven of money you did not work for.  Forgiveness costs the receiver nothing, but forgiveness costs the forgiver everything.  God wants us to forgive those who have sinned against us so that we might come to appreciate the cost of forgiveness.  How many of us have difficulty forgiving?  We hold onto past grievances more tightly than precious gold.  Indeed, for many, the sins perpetrated against them are horrendous, and no one would blame them for not wanting to forgive.

The tortured death of Jesus on the cross has a two-fold message.  Firstly, it is God showing us what it costs Him to forgive us.  And secondly, it is God showing us that He understands how painful it is for us to forgive.  As such, the Lord taught the disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us,” [Luke 11.4] to remind us of the price of forgiveness.  It is a simple reminder for us of two things:  the price God paid to forgive us, and that God knows how difficult and painful it is to forgive.  Indeed, He allows others to sin against us sometimes just so that we can forgive them and experience the cost of forgiveness.  So that we can not only draw close to God, but also know that He has drawn close to us because He shares in the pain of forgiveness and allows us to share in His pain of forgiving us.

One reason Jesus told His disciples to carry their own crosses was so that they would come to know Him through the sharing of the experience and cost of forgiving sins.  When we forgive the sins of those who have not sinned against us, it costs us nothing.  But that authority to forgive sins, which Jesus gave us, costs Him everything.  As such, it is only to those who appreciate the cost of forgiveness, because they have forgiven those who sinned against them and they have paid the price of forgiveness rather than seek the gratification of retribution and vengeance, that this authority is given.

Christ suffering on the cross is not the price paid for our sins.  No, it is the price He paid for forgiving our sins.  Forgiving us costs God His only Son.  Remember that the next time you ask Him to forgive you.  And when it pains you to forgive those who have sinned against you, rejoice, for now you know a little bit of what God felt about forgiving you.

The anger the servant felt towards his fellow servant was not wrong, for his master vented the same anger about him.  What was wrong was that he failed to appreciate the anger his master must have felt towards him in forgiving him of the much larger sum of debt.  And so, he failed to become like his master in forgiving the debt of his debtor.  Had he done so, he would have appreciated the price his master paid to forgive him.

Forgive because it cost God the life of Jesus to forgive you.

Hr. Ed, manager of the Holy Spirit’s Workshop

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