2:7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Paul says we need to forgive. Jesus in answer to Peter's question about how many times we should forgive told a story of the radical boundless forgiveness of the king contrasted with the petty unforgiveness of one of his forgiven subjects. We then looked at how the king responded to it.
Matthew 18:34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
The question we ended with was "Do we have the right to withhold or withdraw forgiveness from someone who abuses our forgiveness like the king did?"
The short answer is no. The long answer is boundaries. Let's look at the story again. The king is God. The man who owed the impossible debt is every one of us. The man who owed the small debt represents the small offenses we commit against each other which in comparison to our life sum of offenses is very small. The servants who observed the unfair treatment and reported it to the king are people like you and I who witness injustice but are powerless and/or not in a position to do anything about it. They did the only thing they could do. They left the matter with the king.
Now let's look at all this from a legal standpoint. When the forgiven subject had his fellow subject tossed in debtors prison he did nothing wrong. He was within his legal rights. The man owed and couldn't pay and the law said that unpaid debts could be settled that way. Technically no crime was committed.
So why was the king so angry? Why did he withdraw his compassion and heap the man's debt back on his shoulders? The answer is in the prayer of Jesus that He taught to His disciples. "Forgive our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us." See there are two streams of Justice. There are two kingdoms. There are two styles of government. Our life on this earth is lived with constant choices and those choices reveal which government we want. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of grace. He values restoration and relationship over revenge. Because of who He is, because of His character, His first foot forward is forgiveness. It is offered fully before it is even requested because His goal is to rebuild and restore.
The other kingdom is Satan's kingdom. In his kingdom self is everything. The whole goal of everything is to rise to the top at all costs. Pride is supreme and if you hurt me you will pay.
Can you see where unforgiveness comes from? It is pure self-obsession.
So the guilty man under the impossible debt begs for mercy and without struggle or conditions receives it. Immediately he sees an opportunity to be more than debt free. Now he can "get ahead" by collecting was is owed to him. He will move from the extreme red into the black. He's thinking about no one but himself. The forgiveness he received is forgotten. He never thought for a second about what it cost the king. He fled from the kingdom of grace right back into the kingdom of self.
Can you see now why the king was angry? It wasn't anger over the debt. It was anger over the trampling of grace. He had opened wide the gates. He had created an opportunity for the kingdom of grace to expand. It was all spit upon. Jesus was crucified all over again.
Can you see it? When I choose to not forgive I am within my legal rights but not in the kingdom of grace. I am within my legal rights in the kingdom of self. If that is the kingdom I insist in operating under, no grace can be given there. In that kingdom the blood of Jesus has no place. No wonder the king was angry. What cost Him everything was treated as nothing and He was forced by the choice of the man to return him to the kingdom he preferred - the kingdom of self. In that kingdom you collect every debt owed you a d you pay every debt you incur.
See the king didn't kill him. He just placed him under the debt again. Now he had to pay just as he demanded payment. No grace. No mercy. What was the torture? Easy. The guilt, shame, and oppressive burden of the unpaid debt.
So do we have the right to withhold forgiveness from those who operate under the parameters of the kingdom of self? No. That is the King's domain. Report it to Him and leave it there. "'Vengeance is Mine' says the Lord."
So how do we handle people who trample our forgiveness? Good question. See you tomorrow. :)