At the beginning of our church plant I worked in real estate. One client used a lot of my time but then fired me to get a better deal with another agent. This ended up costing me time, money, and reputation among other real estate agents, and I was angry and bitter. No way was I going to forgive.
But when Peter asks how many times he should forgive, Jesus’ answer is “seventy times seven” — 490 times (Matt 18:22). Which means we should forgive and never stop forgiving.
But that sounded impossible. Because forgiveness would mean –
- letting go of the harm my ex-client caused me
- no longer desiring her harm
- only desiring her good
But my heart was miles from that. So how could I forgive?
Jesus Tells Us
In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus describes a servant who is angry because he is owed 100 denarii, which is 100 days wages, according to D. A. Carson’s “Matthew” commentary. Imagine someone owing you $20,000 and not paying you back. That would hurt.
But this same servant owes his master ten thousand talents — over a billion dollars, according to Carson. So, because he can’t pay it back, he’s going to be sold into slavery along with his wife and children. But he pleads with his master to give him time to repay, and his master does the unthinkable and forgives the billion dollar debt.
Imagine. At one moment you owe a billion dollars, so you and your family will be sold into the horrors of slavery. But the next moment you owe nothing and you and your family are saved.
But then what does this slave do? He finds the slave who owes him 100 denarii and threatens to throw him in prison if he doesn’t pay up. When the king hears what this slave did, he throws him in prison until he pays back the billion dollars. And Jesus concludes: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from the heart” (v.35).
How Can We Forgive?
The first slave was out $20,000. That’s a lot of money. And yet the first slave should have forgiven the second slave, because of the billion dollar gift the first slave received from the king.
This parable teaches how Jesus enables us to forgive. When I am angry with someone it’s because they have caused me loss. This sense of loss hurts, and makes me want to even the scales by harming them.
Since the anger is caused by my loss, the only way to get rid of the anger is to ease the pain of the loss with a huge gain.
Imagine that after my real estate client fired me, I won a billion dollars in the lottery. Would I still be angry with her? Not at all. Because my joy in the billion dollars would more than make up for the loss she caused me.
And Jesus says I have received a billion dollar gain — in Him. The forgiveness of my sins, being adopted as God’s son, and having God’s heart-satisfying presence forever – this is the billion dollar gain which more than makes up for the losses my ex-client cost me.
So what enables us to forgive is seeing that the billion dollar gain we have in Christ more than makes up for the losses others have cost me.
Why Am I Still Angry?
But if that’s true, then why am I still angry? It’s because at that moment I’m not seeing what I have in Christ as a billion-dollar gain. All I’m seeing is the loss of time, reputation, and money my ex-client cost me. My anger and pride has blinded me to what I have in Christ.
So the only way I can forgive is to have the Holy Spirit change my heart so I once again see the billion-dollar gain I have in Christ. That would so make up for my loss that I would be able to forgive.
So here are the steps which God used to change my heart –
I Turned to Trust Christ
I did not try to change my heart first. Instead I turned to Him just as I was — bitter and angry — saying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13-14).
I Confessed My Sin
My unforgiveness was sin, because I had let my ex-client’s actions blind me to all I had in Christ.
So I confessed my blindness. I repented of how I was not seeing Christ as the billion-dollar treasure He is. I asked Him to forgive me. I thanked Him for His death which paid for my guilt, and His perfect life which covered all my sin.
I Prayed for the Spirit’s Heart-Changing Work
Apart from the Spirit’s supernatural work, my anger would keep blinding me to all I had in Christ. So I asked him to enlighten the eyes of my heart so I could see and feel all that I had in Christ (Eph 1:18).
I Set My Heart on God’s Word
So I set my heart on verses describing Jesus Christ, and asked God to help me to see and feel the massive gains of –
- knowing a God who is fulness of joy forever (Psa 16:11)
- forgiveness of all my sins past, present, and future (Rom 4:6-7)
- a Savior who satisfies every heart thirst in Himself (John 6:35)
- an eternity beholding God’s glory (Rev 21:21-22)
I Continued Until My Heart Changed
I kept praying over those verses until I slowly felt my heart change. My sense of Christ’s worth grew. My feelings of loss were comforted, and then overshadowed, by the gains I had in Christ.
My heart went from feeling empty, to feeling full, overflowingly full — in Christ.
And when my heart was full of Christ, I saw that my anger had gone. I no longer desired revenge. I actually felt compassion for her.
Jesus had enabled me to forgive.
What this taught me
When I am angry at someone, it’s because I am not seeing Christ as a billion-dollar gain. So forgiveness depends on fighting the fight of faith until the Holy Spirit changes my heart — and I once again feel the infinite gain I have in Christ — and let that gain swallow up whatever losses I have received.
I do not say that lightly.
Some of you reading this have experienced losses that make mine look tiny. But what Jesus teaches in Matthew 18 is true: the gain you have in Him is infinitely greater than anything anyone has taken from you.
You may not feel that now. But He can change your heart so you will.
So turn to Christ as you are, confess your unforgiveness, cry out for the work of the Spirit, and set your heart on the truth of who Christ is. He will change your heart so you once again see and feel the infinite gain you have in Him.
And you will be able to forgive.
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And here’s some related posts you might find helpful —
- This Morning’s Battle With Jealousy.
- How Can We Obey The Golden Rule?
- Will-Power vs. Spirit-Power.
- How the Holy Spirit Enables Us to Obey.
(Picture is from asianjournalusa found at everystockphoto.com.)