Have you ever owed some one SO MUCH that you couldn't pay them back?
Maybe it was a friend, relative, or co-worker.
Did you start to avoid their calls? Did you feel uneasy when you accidently ran into them? Did your friendship with them diminish?
Being indebted to someone can put a stress on any relationship. It can push you further apart. It can cause feelings of mistrust and fear.
Jesus tells a story in Matthew 18:21-35 of a servant who owed so much (like billion$), he couldn't pay his master back. There was no bankruptcy protection in the first century. Standard practice in those times was to liquidate everying you had: possessions and family. You lost everthing and everyone you loved. GONE.
What did this servant do? He begged for more time. He promised to pay it all back.
What did the master do? He didn't give his servant more time.
HE CANCELED HIS DEBT.
Every cent the servant owed was forgiven.
Sounds like a good story with a happy ending, huh?
Too bad that's not the end. The "forgiven" servant leaves his master and finds a fellow servant who owes him a few thousand. His fellow servant can't pay, so he has him thrown into prison until he can.
The others who witnessed all this are appalled. When the master finds out that the servant has no mercy for others, he is thrown into prison to be tortured.
What's up with that? Did the servant forget what just happened? He was forgiven so much, couldn't he forgive a little? How can you be so cruel when you have been treated so gracefuly? Is the Master bipolar? One moment he's graceful, the next he's a torturer.
What does this story teach about forgiveness?
Here's a thought: Maybe the first servant was never forgiven. The first servant never received grace. It was offered. It was free. He just didn't want it. His debt was canceled, yet he still wanted to pay it back.
How can I suggest this? The only reason you would throw someone into prison for a few bucks AFTER begging for mercy for billions is because you don't trust that you debt was REALLY canceled. You don't trust your Master to be THAT forgiving. You only think he gave you more time. You don't believe WHAT HE SAID. You don't believe he gave you MORE than you asked for. ALL. DEBT. FORGIVEN.
So you go out and live a petty life, demanding others pay you back, that way if the master ever calls for payment, you got a least a few dollars to give.
This story does not have a happy ending, because forgiveness given but not shared is not forgiveness at all. Grace rejected is grace no more.
Just like the Gospel isn't good news when people only hear a portion of it: "God has forgiven me!" without hearing, "I forgive you."
Many people wonder about thier debt with God. What they owe Him. Whether they have been forgiven.
If you want to know IF you are forgiven, don't ask if God is forgiving. Ask someone else if you are.