On the side of forgiving others, a lot has been published in recent years on the psychological and emotional benefits of being able to forgive. It can free a person from anger, anxiety, bitterness, etc. It can help a person move on with life and not be held back by the past. All this is true and should provide motivation to each of us to extend forgiveness, even if just for the benefits to ourselves, even when we don’t feel like it.

But as followers of Christ we have another reason to forgive, a greater one. It is that we have been forgiven by God for every sin, every mistake, every misdeed we have ever committed or ever will commit. Our slate is wiped clean. Therefore, because of this, we have an obligation before God to forgive others. This was expressed by Jesus when He was teaching His disciples to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” 1. Jesus went on to say, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” 2.

In Matthew 18 Jesus told a story to illustrate this concept: A servant owed the king 10,000 talents. 3

When the servant couldn’t repay, the king ordered him and his family to be sold into slavery until he could pay in full what he owed. The servant fell on his face begging for time and to be shown mercy. The king saw this and decided to completely forgive the debt and free the servant from having to repay it.

While walking home, the forgiven servant met a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii 4, and he grabbed him by the throat and demanded immediate repayment. His fellow servant begged for mercy, asking for time to pay him back. But instead, he dragged the man to prison and made sure he wouldn’t get out until his debt was paid fully.

Some other fellow servants saw what had happened and reported to the king, who then called the forgiven servant and said, “‘I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt” 5.

Jesus ends this story with these words, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” 6.

This Easter can be a time to reflect on God’s great love and forgiveness for each one of us and to search our hearts to see if there is anyone we have not yet forgiven. Something that has helped me is to remember that forgiveness is not an emotion; we don’t have to feel like forgiving. Neither do we have to worry that something is wrong if once we forgive, we still experience negative emotions toward the person. As we continue to hold on to our decision to forgive, we can trust that those negative feelings will subside, and we will eventually have evidence that we have truly forgiven from our hearts.

  1. Matthew 6:12
  2. Matthew 6:14–15
  3. From what I have researched, one talent has been estimated to have equaled approximately 6,000 denarii, or around 10 years of wages, so 10,000 talents would be equal to approximately 100,000 years of wages, an astronomical amount!
  4. about three and a half months of wages
  5. Matthew 18:32–34
  6. Matthew 18:35