Seventy Times - that's a Lot!
by Elaine Pierce
I've read this parable many times (I bet you have too) and I always find myself thinking "how could the unmerciful servant have been so blind to his hypocrisy? The King has just forgiven him a HUGE debt, and he turns around and severely punishes a fellow servant who owes him much, much less. I would never do that, I proclaim self-righteously. I would never be that blind to my own sin."
And then I stop and reflect. What message might Jesus have for me, today, in this parable? Perhaps before I pat myself on my back, I need to ponder Jesus' words in verse 22, after Peter asks him how many times he has to forgive a brother who sins against him:
"Jesus answered, 'I tell you,'"
I don't think Jesus meant that we needed to keep a running tally of the sins of others. He was reminding us that we can NEVER repay what God has done for us! Remember the times in which Jesus walked the earth: the Jews were in bondage to the Romans. As we read the Old Testament, we remember that God delivered them out of Egyptian slavery, but they continually squandered his good gifts. They built idols to other gods. They disobeyed him in small things and in big things. And time after time, he forgave them. Perhaps they were more like the unmerciful servant than they realized.
And the same is true for me, for you. We can NEVER out give, out love, or out serve God. And yet, we often take matters into our own hands, and quickly judge others who sin against us. We have so many opportunities to find fault with others: they don't vote the "right" way...they aren't as faithful as we are in their church attendance...they aren't raising their children the way I do...what they did wasn't right and I'm going to punish them....
Let's all resolve as we draw closer to Easter to do what Jesus said: forgive our brother from our heart. It will be a day at a time process, and we won't be perfect. But we have a perfect example in Jesus, who had the same temptations as we do, and who paid the ultimate price with death on the cross. Let's be slow to anger, steadfast in love, knowing that our savior, our king, is worthy of our love, our hope, our joy.
Lord, how quickly I condemn others. Help me to see the plank in my own eye, and to be slow to anger and steadfast in love. Forgive me when I fall short. Help me to cling to you, and only you. Amen.