As part of my personal journey through forgiveness, I have spent a lot of time in Matthew 18:21-35. Here are some biblical observations about forgiveness with that text as a foundation.
- Forgiveness is like a muscle. You have to use it over and over again to perfect its use. Jesus’ use of numbers in his dialogue with Peter is hyperbole: Whenever someone asks for forgiveness, we are to give it. This means our heart needs to be in a ready state of forgiveness, so that we can readily forgive whenever requested whenever the opportunity presents itself.
- Forgiveness of others is a function of our relationship with God, not our relationship with others. The main dynamic in the parable is the relationship between the king and the first servant, as well as the relative size of the debts. The theological point is clear: God forgave us a huge debt. We should readily forgive others’ offenses which are small in comparison.
- When we forgive, we imitate the Father and open the door for the Gospel of his son. The end goal is not necessarily a restored relationship or even better emotional health for ourselves. Instead, it is to act like the Father, and in so doing to bring grace to others.