Focal Passage: Matthew 18:21-28, 32-33
In the old TV show “Happy Days,” Fonzie was too cool to admit he ever made a mistake. When pressured to say the words, “I was wrong,” he could never get beyond the “wr” in “wrong.”
No matter. Fonzie’s inability to admit failure or error never dampened or destroyed his relationship with his friends. While all this was good for a laugh, it does not mimic real life.
Today’s text – the parable of the unforgiving servant – is Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question of how many times must we forgive? Peter and his gang figured that two or three times was plenty, and seven times was extravagant.
Jesus’ retort, “not seven times, but seventy times seven,” was both unexpected and shocking. Knowing they needed further explanation, Jesus presented a parable where a servant owed his master, the king, more than a lifetime of debt. Since the servant had no viable options for repayment, and knowing that most folks in his situation lost everything they owned, he begged. Amazingly, his master had compassion and forgave 100 percent of the debt. The man was free.
The parable, however, had an unusual twist. The man who had experienced the miracle of forgiveness showed zero mercy to a man who owed him very little, throwing the unfortunate man in prison.
The other slaves took notice of the man’s callousness and brought it to the attention of the master. In anger the master rescinded part of his previous declaration of forgiveness, making sure the man experienced the horrors of prison life. The unforgiving man had sealed his own fate. He would never again enjoy freedom. Admittedly, it is difficult to admit our failures to others, and we relish mercy when we fail. Yet, many times we want others to pay when they hurt us.
According to Jesus, we can’t have it both ways. How many times must we forgive those who have “sinned against me” (v. 21)? The correct answer is “infinity.” Christians don’t have the luxury of not forgiving.