Would you rather spend a sunny afternoon in a pontoon boat with friends or in a kayak by yourself? I think that the reason that some of us would select the kayak is that people like you and I are occasionally just plain hard to be around. Unfortunately, even good people hurt other good people sometimes.
As I was pondering these thoughts, one of Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Matthew came to mind. Jesus had just finished telling Peter that he should not forgive his brother seven times, but seventy-seven times. He then went on to explain forgiveness in the form of a parable. He told a story about a king who was settling accounts with his servants, and one servant owed him ten thousand talents. To put this in context for you, this poor guy owed the king 150,000 years worth of wages. This man was in an impossible spot, and he couldn’t pay back his debt. The king ordered that he and his family be sold to a lifetime of slavery to repay his debt. The Bible says that the servant fell on his knees before the king and cried out, “Be patient with me…..and I will pay back everything.” (Matthew 18:26, NIV) Amazingly, the king had mercy on the man and canceled his debt and let him go. If the parable ended here, it would be a powerful illustration of God’s Grace towards sinful man, but unfortunately (or fortunately) for us, the parable does not end there.
Jesus said, “But when the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (100 day’s wages). 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.” (Matthew 18:28-30, NIV) When the king found out what had happened, he was furious and had the unmerciful servant thrown into prison to be tortured until the impossible debt was paid. Jesus ended His parable by saying, “This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35, NIV)
What does it mean to forgive someone from your heart? Is there a difference between forgiving someone with your head vs. your heart? Can we tell when somebody else has not forgiven us from the heart? It is easy to say that I have forgiven somebody, but do I keep reminding them of their offense by my actions towards them? The parable says that in both cases, the indebted servants begged for forgiveness. How can I beg God for forgiveness for my own sins, while harboring resentment towards another who has asked for my forgiveness? I believe that only the Holy Spirit can help us forgive from the heart. When we learn how to extend even a fraction of the Grace that the Lord shows towards us, it becomes much easier to seek out relationships, and to trade in our kayaks for pontoon boats.