I still remember the moment that my Grandfather unloaded an avalanche of disrespect at my dad, in front of all of us DePoy kids. I was sixteen years old, and I launched into the defense of my dad with a lunge from the kitchen table. I rolled up my sleeves and threatened to physical strike my own Grandfather…
He died a few years ago, and we were never reconciled.
Because I have a photographic memory, and I know how to keep score. I have an emotional ledger on my lap, calculating relational profits/losses with the razor blade of “discernment”. After years of theological education, I have hidden behind the shelter of unforgiveness beneath the cloak of being a wise steward of my heart.
Reading Jesus’ invitation to live in the freedom of forgiveness has wrecked everything for me! What if He really meant that stuff? That would throw a proverbial wrench in my plans of starving the hostages in my prison of bitterness.
“Blessed are the Merciful, for they will be shown Mercy…” – defined beautifully as ‘Active compassion by Divine grace’; Mercy is intricately woven into the fabric of forgiveness, as illustrated by the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
Jesus paints a portrait of His Father’s posture by describing the Kingdom:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who wanted to settle all accounts…”
What does this tell us about the heart of God?
Central to the redemption Story is the gospel insistence of debt cancellation and the implications thereof.
Because we all have an account, and we all will stand before the King who desires reconciliation.
Last year I went to a conference in Orlando, Florida. I had greatly anticipated the Grand Finale – an inspiring message from a theological hero of mine. On the morning of the big event, I overslept in my hotel room (long story… no wake up call from the front desk/my lawyers are handling it…). The alarm clock revealed my inner panic, and I squealed out of the parking lot in my rented Toyota Prius. Despite the stale green light, I blew threw the immanent red-lighted intersection and cruised my way to catch the end of the conference.
Two months later, I received an “Infraction” in the mail. There was a phone number to call, if I had any questions, otherwise the necessary payment should be included in this return envelope… I dialed the phone number at the bottom of the ticket and began to argue with the Police Officer in Florida. He invited me to check out a particular website which had documented and preserved my blown red light.
Yep, that’s me… driving a rented Toyota through an intersection that could not contain my hurry.
How shall I plea? What is my defense?
But Jesus insists that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who desires reconciliation. He cancels the debt of “10,000 Talents” which, according to Josephus was the exact amount demanded by the Roman Emperor Pompey upon the Jews in 64 BC; This astronomical figure was another example of Jesus’ hyperbole exaggerations of the extreme. The numerical figure of 10,0000 was the highest number used in reckoning, and the “Talent” was the highest amount of printed currency in the culture of the Ancient Near East.
Jesus was communicating the weight of our sin, and the price of our forgiveness.
But then, in classic rabbinic fashion, Jesus flips the script and twists the narrative to include the lack of forgiveness offered by the slave to his peers. He leaves the presence of the Throne and immediately hunts down an outstanding debtor for repayment. Capturing his attention in a choke hold, the Unmerciful Servant refuses to offer forgiveness to the smaller debt that was owed to him.
This is me.
I am an artist at harboring unforgiveness… I have approximately 5 people in Muskegon, MI whom I am continuing to keep in my own prison. The cold shoulder is a choke hold, and I am wrestling with the demand of the King, to forgive those who have hurt me.
I have been known to run a few red lights. I have burned a bridge or two… I have left behind carnage in my wake. I have been found guilty.
And I have been forgiven. How now shall I live?