Have you had the opportunity to forgive someone who has wronged you? Jesus likened withholding forgiveness to a prison. The irony is that the person who will not forgive is the one locked inside the four walls. Forgive means “to let go.” In order to forgive someone who has wounded us, we must let go of four prison walls that incarcerate us in the prison of un-forgiveness. In Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving debtor, He described three scenes illuminating the three applications of the story (Matthew 18:21-35).
Scene one portrays the largest debt ever incurred (150,000 years’ wages) being forgiven, or let go, vertically from the king to his servant (Matthew 18:21-27). In Christ, God has let go of the largest debt ever incurred — our sin against Him. This week, remember your personal story of that big debt let go by God in Christ. Write down the date, time, and place where you appropriated God’s forgiveness to your own life.
Scene two paints a similar scenario; however, the debt incurred horizontally between the forgiven servant and his fellow servant is comparatively quite small (100 days’ wages) (Matthew 18:28-31). The servant who had been forgiven the largest debt ever incurred would not let go of the small horizontal debt with his fellow servant. He wanted to hold on.
Are you holding on to a horizontal debt? If so, write it down on that same sheet of paper where you recorded the date, time, and place where you surrendered your vertical debt to Christ. Something about the reality of ink on paper will allow you to connect with the point of scene two in Jesus’ parable. The vertical debt you were let go in Christ is infinitely larger than the horizontal debt that you are holding against the offender.
Scene three casts a dark reality: withholding forgiveness horizontally results in imprisonment (Matthew 18:32-35). Word of the forgiven servant’s behavior reached the king who responded by throwing the unforgiving servant into prison. Jesus concluded the parable with quite possibly the most sobering words in Scripture: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).
As we see in Jesus’ concluding statement, forgiveness flows from the heart (will, intellect, spirit, and emotions). The Bible teaches us that two heart conditions exist: proud or humble. A proud heart is hard and unforgiving. A humble heart is soft and forgiving. A proud heart holds on. A humble heart lets go. When someone harms us, we either hold on or we let go. When we hold on, we remove the vertical from the horizontal, taking matters into our own hands. Consequently, we break up the cross into four pieces — each piece representing a prison wall. Ironically, the one incarcerated is not the offender, but the withholder.
Do you want to be free? Remember Christ paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. Let go of any horizontal debt you are white-knuckling and release the Forgiver in you. Choose to. Think to. Pray to. Want to. The King will set you free.