“So also My heavenly Father will do to you unless each of you from your hearts forgive his brother their offenses.” Matthew 18:35
Forgive – Forgiveness is fundamental to faith. It is the action that separates human being from human biology. When I refuse to forgive, I move away from alignment with the Father. In the yet-to-be-redeemed world, forgiveness is one of the distinctively different characteristics of Kingdom citizens.
Since we all have some glimmer of this truth, we are often quick to mouth forgiveness. That is a mistake. There is a difference between saying “I forgive you,” and expressing forgiveness from the heart. In fact, the difference is so important that Yeshua emphasizes the point following the parable of the forgiveness of an enormous debt. What matters is forgiveness from your (plural) hearts (apo ton kardion).
So, what does this mean? Yeshua draws us a picture. Forgiveness from the heart can be seen in the way we accept and grant forgiveness. When our actions toward forgiving others do not reflect a proper attitude toward accepting forgiveness for ourselves, the vital component is missing – and the forgiveness is revoked! To accept forgiveness is to embrace the scar of the injury. If we do not feel the hurt, we cannot measure the forgiveness. When we are forgiven, we must engage the pain we have caused in order to understand the magnitude of the grace we have been given. Yeshua recognized this weight in the woman who washed His feet with her tears. As excruciating as it might be, we cannot truly receive forgiveness until we have embraced the depth of the injury we caused. To ask for forgiveness is to ask to be included in the injury, sorrow and trauma.
Once we have been forgiven from the heart, we will know what it means to give forgiveness from the heart. We will know that forgiveness involves pain. It is not the action of polite behavior. It is not a brushed-aside deflection. Forgiveness involves suffering; and no one who has avoided suffering will truly be able to forgive. On the other hand, once we have identified with the suffering we caused, and still have been released from it, we will know what it really means to forgive.
The parable of the forgiveness of an enormous debt pushes us toward a recognition of the urgency of forgiveness, but it does not promote urgency without consideration. The king revokes his forgiveness because the wicked servant never came to grips with the enormity of his obligation. He did not stand in the king’s shoes and consider the amount of grace bestowed on him. Therefore, he was unable to exhibit compassion toward another.
If you want the compassion of God to flow through your veins, you must first embrace the injury you have wrought on God’s name. Until you feel the nails, you will not know what it means to say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
Topical Index: forgiveness, heart, compassion, Matthew 18:35