The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘pay me what you owe!’ “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ he would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him in, and said to him, ‘you wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”— MATTHEW 18:23-35
This parable teaches many truths:
- The enormous capacity of God’s forgiveness (cf. the 10,000 talents)
- Such forgiveness should be the model for the way that Christians forgive others
- An unforgiving spirit is an offence to God
- Forgiveness must be “from the heart”
Whilst it would be inadvisable to adduce doctrinal particularities from a parable, Jesus’ last statement is not a part of the story, it is a warning of what “My heavenly Father will do this TO YOU if you don’t forgive your brother” (v35). Those who have been forgiven by Christ and refuse to forgive others will be punished in some way and for some period after death (v34). If that were not the case, such a warning would be a deception on Christ’s part. As in the Lord’s prayer, God’s forgiveness is conditional; dependent on our willingness to forgive others. Likewise with the beatitudes, those who are merciful shall themselves receive mercy. Such is the nature of God’s thoroughly intelligible justice, and as my book* endeavors to establish, Paul once rightly understood writes nothing to countermand this or any of Christ’s moral or judicial teaching.
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Illustration: courtesy Goodsalt.com
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