We feel compassion when others suffer. This is what makes us human. But what do we do when someone makes us suffer? Is it not also human to be angry and retaliate, to avenge the wrong done? Once, Jesus Christ’s closest disciple Peter posed this question — “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” And Christ replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” This means that there is no calculable limit to forgiveness. Christ then illustrated his answer with a parable to drive home a great spiritual lesson:
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”
Christ then concluded his parable by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.”
The lesson is clear: We must forgive if we wish to be forgiven by God. No wrong our neighbour can do to us can compare with our debt to God. If God has forgiven each of us our debt, which is very great, we too must forgive others the debt they owe us. Just as the king in the parable revoked the unforgiving servant’s pardon in righteous anger, God will not forgive our sins unless we extend our mercy to others and sincerely forgive them for any wrongs they have done to us.
Forgiving the offender means ceasing to feel resentment, hold a grudge or harbour thoughts of revenge. It may not be possible to completely forget what happened. But unless we let go of the anger and resentment, it keeps hurting and consumes us filly. There will be no redemption then. Every generation keeps rediscovering how difficult it is to forgive.
The parable of ‘The Unmerciful Servant’ also shows that mercy follows justice and perfects it. The king first handed out justice, then seasoned it with mercy. Had not the servant been unmerciful himself, he would have been worthy of the king’s mercy.
Through such parables timeless in appeal, Jesus Christ taught profound truths. In all ages, in all realms and to all peoples, these truths show the right way like light shining down from the heavens.
— the harbinger