The torturers

The torturers

That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. – Matthew 18:35

Matthew 18:31-34

 31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.

 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.

 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

 34 Then the angry king handed him over to the torturers until he had paid his entire debt.

The effects of torture are real and lasting. In the West, where we cannot scientifically study individuals by torturing them, the conclusions drawn by researchers are basically anecdotal. Surveys are made of those who are torture survivors, usually from other countries. Of course not all torture is physical. Much of it is mental and emotional. Some of the most horrible aspects of torture are loss of control and the uncertainty and dread regarding the future.

But the good news is that victims of mistreatment can be helped. Lives can be reshaped and rebuilt.

The Lord Jesus Christ zeros in on one type of torture. The self-imposed anguish, sorrow, and torment we experience for not forgiving the sins of others who have harmed us. Unforgiven sin runs the gamut. Some grievances can be minimal grudges we hold against others who have in one way or another hurt or offended us. Other sins are grievous physical or emotional abuse. Others may involve money or broken relationships and trust.

The Lord Jesus Christ uses the forgiveness of financial debt as an illustration of all forms of forgiveness.

The story begins with Peter asking about forgiveness. Forgiveness involves all manner of things from small offenses or hurt feelings to major losses or betrayals and lost relationships, resources, or material wealth.

Jesus clearly taught the disciples to be forgiving. So Peter innocently, and probably thinking himself somewhat generous and magnanimous, asked how much forgiveness is enough? And he presents a hypothetical case. Suppose my brother sins against me and I seek to forgive him. How much forgiveness is enough forgiveness? When have I discharged my  responsibility to forgive sufficiently before the Father? If I forgive him seven times is that not enough?

Of course, this assumes that counting sins and keeping track of them is appropriate. It further assumes that keeping track of how many we have forgiven is also correct behavior. The first thing to realize of course is that the Father does not actually have a ledger of our sins. And that neither should we. Putting it another way, keeping count of the sins of others committed against you and repeatedly the calling them to mind is just wrong. The Bible sets forth high and often impossible standards. We are not to take into account a wrong suffered (1 Corinthians 13:5).

But that being said, if I have been sinned against, and I forgive that person seven times, have I appropriately discharged my responsibility as a child of the King?

I suppose Peter was thinking that Jesus would say something like, “Good job! How kind, generous, and altruistic.” But he said something  quite shocking instead. He multiplied 7 times 70 or a total of 490 times.  In other words, 490 times would be far more correct. But who’s going to keep those kinds of records? At face value, do you think the Lord Jesus Christ was counting, really? Of course not. Rather, He was offering a revolutionary mode of conduct, the conduct which is appropriate the Father’s children. The Lord Jesus Christ is saying “never stop forgiving.” There is no upward limit unforgiveness. Forgiveness should be a way of life for children of the King. These are kingdom standards not earthly ones. Without saying so the implication is: stop counting at all.

Matthew 18:21-22

 21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

REFLECT & PRAY

Dire things happen to people who choose not to forget and forgive. A transformed heart must result in a changed life that offers the same mercy and forgiveness as has been received from the Father (ESV).

Father I fall so far short of your standards. Unforgiveness lurks in my heart and all too frequently jumps out and causes pain for others and torture for myself.

INSIGHT

To illustrate His point, the Lord Jesus Christ tells a story of three people. The first person is a master, a person of means and wealth. The second person is a servant in great debt to the master. The debt is so great he could never repay it. The third person is also a servant. He too is in debt, but owes a small amount to the first servant. Given time and opportunity, he could certainly pay off his own debt

Matthew 18:23-37

 23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.

 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.

 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold– along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned– to pay the debt.

 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’

 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

The first servant begged his master for forgiveness. His master felt compassion and forgave him all of his debt. You would think that the servant would be grateful and give forward the generosity which is received. But first servant does just the opposite.

Matthew 18:28-30

 28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

 29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.

 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

Word gets back to the master. He is infuriated by the man’s lack of generosity, kindness, and compassion. Rather than giving forward the forgiveness, he acted heartlessly and harshly. The master had the first servant arrested and turned over to the torturers.

Matthew 18:31-35

 31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.

 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.

 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

We have an overwhelmingly large sin-debt with a Father. We could never repay it on our own. Through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf, it has been paid in full. We should be grateful and emulate Him and become debt-forgivers. We should completely forgive the debts of others and then destroy the mental ledgers that contained them. We should never take into account wrongs suffered and keep mental calculations of them. The Lord Jesus Christ had a one-word definition regarding those who do not forgive debts, sins, and keep a running total of them. The Lord Jesus Christ summarized this as sin. It is sin not to forgive debt.

To the degree we choose not to forgive we identify ourselves with earthly standards. We are not in compliance with the Father’s standards at all. But the consequences dire consequences. Lack of forgiveness results in torture. Do you live in torture and torment with the memories of past wrongs? Or have you become a merciful, gracious, compassionate forgiver?

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