Have you ever wondered WHY it is so hard to forgive others when they sin against us? Giving forgiveness is not an easy thing. Peter expresses this sentiment when he asks Jesus a question in Matthew 18:21:
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
The very nature of Peter’s question implies that giving forgiveness is not an easy thing. For Peter it was so hard that he wanted to know if there were limits to the forgiveness that he had to extend. But WHY is it so hard to forgive? Jesus gives us some insight to that question in the parable he tells immediately after Peter’s question.
He says, "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 talents 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 denari. 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 turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
In this parable Jesus is giving us some insight as to WHY it is so hard to forgive others. When someone sins against us they are creating a debt. Jesus compares that debt to being owed money, which is something we can easily understand. But in most cases the debt incurred through sin deals with more than just money.
Let me give an example, say someone tells a hurtful lie about you to others. By telling that lie they are creating a debt, they owe you something and it may be more than just an apology. You see, by saying something hurtful they may be robbing you of your reputation, or that lie might cause you pain, it may steal your joy or hurt your relationship with others. When someone sins against you they have taken something from you that in many cases they can’t pay back. There is nothing they can do to erase those hurtful thoughts they have put in others minds, they can’t go back and remove the pain they have caused, they can’t make everything right. And when they ask you for forgiveness they are asking you to remove that debt, a debt that in most cases they have no way to pay back. Forgiving is not an easy thing to do.
Jesus’ parable ultimately tells us that the measure of forgiveness we receive from God is related to the measure of forgiveness we extend to others. How can we come before God begging and pleading for mercy while at the same moment turning a deaf ear to those around us who are desperately seeking our compassion.