Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven*. (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)
Immediately after this, Jesus launches into a parable about a king who forgives the debt owed to him by one of his servants however this same servant refuses to forgive one of his own servant’s debt and instead sends him off to jail until he pays the debt in full. The King is displeased when word comes to him concerning his forgiven servant’s unforgiving actions and this king, in turn, throws the first servant into jail as well. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. (v 35).
Wow. If that doesn’t scare you, you weren’t paying attention. Apparently forgiveness and mercy are a big deal to God. Once again, Jesus piles a lot into His brief parable and a person go on and on ad nauseum about the theological implications and defining the characters, but, if we don’t get the basic meaning, then none of that really matters does it?
So let’s break it down quickly. The king is God, the first servant is you, and the second servant is some other believer. The point is that if you are a true follower of Christ because you truly understand the story of Christ’s Passion and resurrection for your salvation, then forgiveness is a no-brainer. It’s in your heart. Since the heart is the core of your being, if you do not forgive, if you do not grant mercy, then you are not a truly saved because you do not know Christ. That is the gist of this lesson of Jesus’.
The reason why I included this story as this blog explores Love in the Bible is that it cuts to the core of the entire issue. If we, as believers, don’t turn our hearts to God and realize one way or another if we even are the believers we claim to be, then we need to get things right. Jesus tells us at the end of His story the key to everything, the heart. It’s not a bout doing the right thing or saying the right thing, it’s about being right in our hearts.
Think about it this way perhaps, where there is fire, there is warmth, so a cold, unforgiving heart implies an absence of God’s fire. Ironically, Jesus promises that this lack of warmth will be remedied in the end. Just something to think about as you watch the news or peruse social media. Check your heart. What’s it saying to you? What does it feel? Hopefully your heart is filled with pity, mercy and compassion….. Love. God knows the world needs all of those things these days.