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(Matthew 18:21-35)

Lesson 2 -- second quarter 1996
March 10, 1996

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1996, Christian Light Publications

Is there no place for record-keeping?
Can I obligate someone to forgive me?

I have some computer files that document some "unfortunate" events in some of my past relationships. The content of the files is not inflammatory of itself. However, the memories which it awakens are potentially very deadly in areas like bitterness, anger and self-pity. I have devised a powerful reminder for myself--I cannot read these files unless I first type in FORGIVE.

Forgiveness is not denial. Forgiveness acknowledges the wounds and wrong responses . . . and chooses to forgive anyway! However, we must understand that forgiveness also chooses to not review and refresh the record! I do not open those computer files for purposes other than extracting a specific date and/or event. And when I do open them, I do with forgiveness fresh on my mind.

Do you want to review a record of wrongs, failures and offenses? Look no farther than your own. God leaves absolutely no room for keeping a record of how others treat you. However, we all need to recognize what Paul might have called "our own chiefest of sinners ailment." When we consider our own record (hopefully confessed and forgiven) before God, we will be able to forgivingly deal with how others treat us.

"I want you to forgive me," sounds noble enough, but can be stated in a rather demanding sort of way. Other people skip the polish: "The Bible says to forgive, so you have to forgive me!" Is this a proper understanding and application of Scripture?

Both of the debtors in today's parable had absolutely no legal or moral foundation on which to construct a case for forgiveness. So they didn't even try. Instead, both of them asked only for time to pay their debts. They both recognized that their forgiveness depended entirely on the discretion of their creditors . . . and apparently didn't even dream of asking for it.

So can I try to obligate someone to forgive me? I hardly see on what basis! My duty is to recognize my failure to my fellow man and to do what I can to make amends. In humility I can then ask for forgiveness. Their obligation to forgive is before God, not before me. And I need not remind them of that!

Did you catch it?! The lord went from "I forgave thee all" to "pay all"!! Perhaps we cheer at a passage like this because it proves the fallacy of unconditional eternal security. While unconditional eternal security is wrong and dangerous, an unwillingness to forgive is equally wrong and dangerous! Instead of cheering we ought to prick up our ears. Sometimes it seems like we believe in our own breed of unconditional eternal security--how else can you explain our problems with forgiving one another?! So let's make sure we get this perfectly straight: Those who do not forgive others damn themselves to eternal punishment! Even though God's forgiveness wipes us clean, our unforgiving spirit will restore all our debts to our heavenly account!

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