“The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” because that servant who had received mercy (forgiveness) by the Master, refused to show mercy (forgiveness) to his fellow servant, and he experienced consequences as a result. This is one of the essential teachings of Jesus, along with the Golden Rule and loving your neighbor. The whole message of the parable is to teach His followers that since they have received God’s forgiveness for their sins, they should in turn forgive others. Is there a familiar pattern here? Think of the love pattern we’ve seen in the first two lessons: God loved us, we respond by loving Him. God loves others, and expects us to do the same out of our love for God. The forgiveness patter mirrors this: God forgave us, and He expects us to forgive others out of our love for Him.
So easy to comprehend, yet so tough to put into practice!
Jesus teaches us to be like Him and forgive others Jesus’ earthly ministry was nothing if not an expression of love; for in all that He did and said He demonstrated God’s love for us in action. He took away pain and suffering, granted forgiveness of sins and taught the Truth of God’s Word. He provided us with our model for living life as He went along, a model that if we follow will be very pleasing in God’s sight. Time and again Jesus brought a message of mercy saying that the time for God to judge had not yet come. If we are truly His followers, His love, mercy and forgiveness will be our hallmarks, for in this, the people around us will see Christ through us.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
To refuse to forgive others is to reject God’s grace. This is a tougher concept to grasp, for it comes down to a judgment call: At what point will our refusal to obey His commands become a rejection of our covenant relationship with God? We know that when we sin, God will forgive us when we acknowledge our sins. Yet if we deliberately keep on sinning in the same way year after year, and continue to refuse repentance when will God say that’s enough? Theologians have been arguing about this for centuries, so we aren’t likely to settle it here, but there is one thing that is very clear, and that is that if we receive God’s 13 | Page grace in forgiving our sins but we refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us, we are rejecting the very grace we have received ourselves. Here are a few of the verses on this subject, no doubt you can add more to this list.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke6:37
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation Luke 11:4 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2 Corinthians 2:7
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4 In these verses, Paul tells us what our love for one another looks like in practice. Before we go too much further, we need to consider what this love really is, because it has nothing to do with our emotions or feelings, after all how can an emotion be commanded?
The English language lacks the vocabulary to make distinctions between different kinds of love. For example, the love a person has for a spouse is of a different sort than the love they might have for a child, a sibling, their country or for pizza. Greek, the original language of the New Testament, on the other hand, has five different words that reflect five different kinds of love, and the one used in all of these verses is the word agape, which is a godly and totally selfless love that puts the other first in all things. It has nothing to do with feelings, but rather involves a conscious decision to put others first. Notice Paul’s emphasis on “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” This is what our love for others should be like. Going further, he says, “. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Can you see the concepts of selflessness and humility at work here? Our love for one another must be selfless in its nature, because it is the exact opposite of “selfish ambition” and “vain conceit”. Our love for one another needs to be like the love that Jesus showed for us; He is our role model. Paul went on to describe our new attitude in the rest of this passé: Read Philippians 2:5-11 now and note that after He humbled Himself and completed His mission on earth in perfect obedience to the Father, He was rewarded with glory and honor. After reading the passage, discuss as a group how His example relates to our everyday life. Putting Others First As you are no doubt aware, the passage above is one of many that teach us about putting others first, living selfless lives, humility and serving others in the New Testament epistles. Jesus also taught these things often, through direct statements, parables and preaching.
Consider these passages that are sometimes misunderstood… Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24-26 Here, Jesus is talking about this same issue. Setting aside our old ways of thinking and our old attitudes, we follow Him as Christians. From the point of view of the world around us, we haves “lost” our lives, for we have given up its ways to follow Jesus. Yet, we really haven’t lost much of anything, for we have gained so much more than the world can imagine in its place. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48 Let’s be honest, these verses are entirely Contrary to what we would expect (counter-intuitive) and counter cultural. They certainly do not describe the attitude of our culture, nor do they describe our natural human inclinations, but they do describe what love in action looks like, for they describe a person who is willing to be set free from the desire to be “important” and assertive as this world sees these things. Instead, they describe a person who is willing to humbly serve God by serving others without expecting anything in return. This is love in its purest form!
I don’t need to tell any of you what the Bible says about pride and self.
If a person finds him or herself in a situation where they have a real struggle forgiving another person for something they have done, theoretically speaking, are they demonstrating godly love or could it be that pride or self may be involved? Of course, it is certainly true that when others have sinned against us there can be many factors and variables in operation at the same, not to mention a variety of emotions. Injustice is never easy to swallow, nor is outright violence or loss. Yet when the emotions begin to subside and healing has begun to take place, there are many times when the only thing that stands between us and forgiving the other person is pride or self, and in some cases these are manifested by rage, resentment and/or a strong desire for retribution. Hypothetically speaking, how do these emotions reflect God’s teaching of love, humility and forgiveness?