- Sorry! – A Life of Forgiveness
- Matthew 18:23-35
- Lyndol Loyd October 22, 2017
One of the games I loved to play as a child was the Parker Brother’s classic – Sorry! It is based upon the game of Parcheesi.
In Sorry! each player has his or her own “start” location and “home” location. The objective is to be the first player to get all four pawns around the perimeter of the board from the start square to the home square.
Sorry! is played by drawing cards instead of rolling dice. Every once in a while you end up drawing a Sorry card which allows you to put your pawn in the place of one of your opponent’s pawns and send him or her back to start.
As a little kid, it is a lot of fun to draw a Sorry card, blurt out “Sorry!” and send someone else back to start. Part of the fun is in saying, “Sorry!” but not really meaning it. It is fun to do when playing a game, but that won’t get you very far in real life.
This game reminds me of a story that Jesus told. We find it recorded in the New Testament book of Matthew 18:23-35:
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
With this parable, Jesus put into living color his teachings about forgiveness. This parable gives us profound insight about spiritual and emotional healing.
When the king decided to settle his accounts, he found that one servant owed him the fantastic sum of $10,000,000. Jesus used an impossible sum of money in the parable. The annual taxes from the provinces of Judea, Idumea, Samaria, Galilee, and Perea all put together only amounted to $800,000.
But the exaggerated size of the debt is the whole point. A person’s debt to God and to others is so great that it can never be paid back, any more than a servant working for a few cents a day could ever save up enough money to repay a debt of $10,000,000.
The servant fell on his knees and begged for mercy. He was asking for a special kind of mercy. He was asking for an extension of time, a delay. “Lord have patience with me. Please delay and I’ll pay you back everything. Give me more time.”
The servant’s idea of forgiveness was one thing, but the Lord’s idea was another. The Lord, in his mercy, forgave him all his debt and released him. He got better than he ever imagined or even deserved quite frankly.
But the same servant as he went out saw a fellow servant, a co-worker, who owed him a few thousand dollars. He seized him by the throat and said, “Pay me what you owe me.” When the co-worker couldn’t do it, he in effect plays the Sorry card. The servant showed no mercy on him but put him into the debtor’s prison until he paid in full.
The master summoned the servant and said, “Look, I forgave you all your debts and now you treat your fellow servant this way.” So in anger, the master delivered him to prison until he should pay everything he owed.
Now, that’s bad enough, but Jesus’ next statement is the real shocker of the story. “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Wait a minute, Jesus. What are you trying to tell us? What kind of picture of the heavenly Father is this? Maybe it’s a mistranslation? No, the inference is clear. To the unforgiven and the unforgiving, God will be like a harsh and stern debt-collector.
Even here and now, the unforgiven and unforgiving person is plagued with guilt and resentment. He or she lives in a prison house where there is constant torture by all manner of inner emotional conflict.
One of the biblical descriptions of sin is “Violation of God’s Laws.” When we break those laws we are, in a sense, in debt to them.
The words “ought” and “owe” come from the same root word. To say, “I ought to do this,” or “I ought not to do this,” is like saying, “I owe it to God,” or “I owe it to this person” to do or not to do this.
What is true about God’s laws is also true in the realm of interpersonal relationships. We feel the oughts and debts to one another.
When we sin against a person, you might have feelings like “somehow I feel as if I’m in debt to him,” or “I feel as if she owes me an apology.” It’s sort of like when a person is released from prison we say he or she has paid their debt to society.
Jesus put this concept at the very heart of the Lord’s Prayer when he was teaching the disciples how to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as forgive our debtors.”
There are two major causes of most emotional problems among Christians:
- Failure to Receive Forgiveness
- Failure to Give Forgiveness
- Failure to receive forgiveness
So many of us are like the servant in the parable. Because he misunderstood the offer given to him, he pled for an extension of time. What happened?
The master, in his mercy, gave him far more than he asked for, more than he could ever dream or pray for – he released him and forgave him all of his debts.
But the servant never heard what the master said to him. He thought that his master had given him what he asked for. What did he ask for? Patience and extension of time.
“Please don’t foreclose on my debt. Extend my note a little bit longer and I assure you I’ll pay you everything I owe you.” In his pride and stupidity, he thought he could pay back $10,000,000 if he was only given enough time.
But the master, in his mercy, wiped out the whole debt. He didn’t extend the note. He tore it up. He canceled it, and set the man free from his debts, free from the threat of imprisonment.
But because the servant didn’t realize the debt had been canceled, the hidden tormentors of resentment, guilt, striving and anxiety went to work on him. Because he thought he still owed, he thought he still had to pay, and also to collect debts from others.
Many of us are like that. We read, we hear, we believe a good theology of grace. But that’s not the way we live. We believe grace in our heads but not in our gut-level feelings or in our relationships.
We affirm grace in the songs we sing at church. We say it is one of the distinctives of the Christian faith. But this all takes place on a head level.
The good news of the gospel of grace has not penetrated the level of our emotions. It hasn’t worked its way into our interpersonal relationships.
Grace isn’t only God’s undeserved mercy and favor. It is also unearned and can never be repaid. The failure to see and know and feel grace drives many Christians to the tragic treadmill of performing, achieving and striving. But all they have is a sort of salvation with a promissory note.
You see, there isn’t forgiveness from God unless you freely forgive your brother from your heart as the Scripture passage read. It might be that the brother or sister you need to forgive is yourself.
- Failure to give forgiveness
When we fail to accept and receive God’s grace and forgiveness, we also fail to give unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people. This results in a breakdown of our interpersonal relationships.
How tragic is this parable Jesus shares? The servant, not realizing he was completely forgiven, thought he still had to go around collecting money from the servants who owed him so that he could pay the debt that the master had canceled.
It is all a vicious cycle. The unaccepted are the unaccepting. The unforgiven are the unforgiving. The ungraced are the ungracious. Emotional conflicts and broken relationships end up being the result.
Think of how you apply this to the significant others in your life:
- Parents who hurt you when you were growing up;
- Brothers and sisters who failed you when you needed help, who teased you and put you down;
- A friend who betrayed you; a boyfriend/girlfriend who rejected you;
- Your spouse who promised to love, honor, comfort, and care for you, but instead nagged and caused you pain.
They all owe you a debt don’t they.
They owe you affection and love, security and affirmation, but since you feel indebted, guilty, resentful, insecure, and anxious, since you see yourself as unforgiven and unacceptable, you become unforgiving & unaccepting.
You haven’t received grace, so how can you show it to others? You’ve got to collect on grievances, collect on your hurts. You must make all these people who have hurt you pay the debts they owe you. You are a grievance collector.
There is a Scriptural way to deal with all these hurts from our past. God’s way goes far beyond forgiving and surrendering resentment. God takes sins, failures, and hurts that happened earlier in your life and wraps His loving purposes around them to change them.
The greatest illustration of this is the Cross. God took what, from a human standpoint, was the worst injustice and the deepest tragedy that ever happened and turned it into the most wonderful gift we have ever known – the gift of salvation.
As a church, we need to form a debt-free society, where we love each other because we are loved, where we accept because we are accepted. Where we are the recipients of grace and are grace giving with others because we know the joy of having Jesus tear up our debts and toss them away.
Because Jesus has set us free, we can set others free and thereby set in motion grace and love.
Paul summed it up this way for us in Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
Jesus said it this way, “Freely, you have received. Freely give.” Matthew 10:8 (NIV)
As we have been doing this entire series I want you to hear from someone in our own congregation because I believe there is power in hearing how God has shown up and worked in the lives of those we worship with on a week in, week out basis. This morning that person happens to be my wife, Joni Loyd.
Most people here at LakeRidge have no idea about Joni’s backstory, but she has graciously agreed to put herself out there and share it with us this morning. Please turn your attention to the screen as we hear Joni’s story of a life of forgiveness.