Don’t Forget God’s Mercy Towards You
In a recent blog post I wrote about the importance of Christians remembering things pertaining to the things of God. We need to remember who we are in Christ and our role as ambassadors for Him, etc. I mentioned also how we as humans have difficulty remembering things, or maybe more accurately, we have difficulty aligning our thoughts with our actions, and with implementing our beliefs into our behaviors. (Here’s a link to this post if you missed it: https://flaniganjames.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/remember-not-to-forget/).
There is an important teaching that falls under this category of not forgetting that I want to discuss, and that is the idea that we need to remember that we were forgiven a great debt by the Lord.
Let’s start by looking at the parable of the unforgiving servant that Jesus taught and is recorded in the book of Matthew:
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matthew 18:21-35
You should know this fact about the parable: the original servant’s debt was very large,(Ten thousand talents is equivalent to a few million dollars today), whereas the second fellow servant’s debt was very small (a hundred denarii was just a few dollars). This inequality of debt magnifies the outrage of what the unforgiving servant had done. We must realize though that likewise the debt that we owed the Lord and were forgiven by Him was very large, whereas the debt that we place on people or are faced with to exercise our forgiveness is very small in comparison.
So what is the lesson for us here? I know that this parable is about forgiveness, but I also see at the core of this is the fact that this unforgiving servant seemed to forget what his master had recently done in compassionately forgiving him of a great debt. So, should we tie a string around our finger to help remember that we were forgiven a great debt by the Lord so that we don’t forget when faced with forgiving others? We do somehow need to remember God’s mercy towards us, but rather than a string, I would suggest that we look to the Holy Spirit to remind you.
I recently had to work with some younger guys who were very liberal in their politics and quite worldly in their speaking and thinking. I found myself in my heart disliking them for this, and being judgmental, thinking of how foolish they were. But then my conscience, which I believe is influenced by the Holy Spirit, checked me on this, saying, “Weren’t you just as foolish in your youth, or even worse?” “How is it that you are judging them negatively for the same things that you did in the past?” I realized that I needed to love them, and with this new perspective, in the light of my own past foolishness, I was able to do so. I was able to treat them with love and even pray for them. This isn’t exactly about forgiveness, but I see it as quite similar in that there is a need for me to act with compassion due to the compassion that was shown to me in the past.
Often times, though, there is a disconnect like this in our thinking between what was done to us in the past, and what we should do in our current situations. We somehow can’t make the connection, or we so easily forget or block out of our minds the information that relates to ourselves. This goes along with our great ability to see faults in others but our inability, at the same time, to see the same fault in ourselves. We seem to have selective thinking or a selective memory. As Christians we are required to soften our hearts. This softening requires the removal of this blockage. As we remove our pride and humble ourselves before the Lord, we are able to see more realistically our own shortcomings from the past.
In the parable, the king or master of the original servant was compassionate towards him, where in turn, that servant showed no compassion towards his fellow servant. How is this? It would seem that the master’s act of compassion should have had an impact on the servant that would have caused him to be compassionate later in similar circumstances. What prevented that from happening?
Although there may be a number of issues preventing someone from being impacted by a compassionate act being done towards them, I see it as being important for us to do all that we can to allow the compassionate act of forgiveness from God the Father, through His Son Jesus, to impact our lives and hearts. There are some preachers that promote spending a time of intense sorrow before the Lord during repentance for new converts, allowing the Holy Spirit to deeply touch their heart, with mourning and weeping, seeing this as a prerequisite to a true conversion. Although I don’t agree with regimenting or formally orchestrating this time of sorrow before the Lord, I would agree that at some point in a Christian’s life they need to humble themselves before the Lord and allow the reality of their forgiveness to sink deep into their spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts regarding this area, fully and deeply recognizing God’s compassion towards them.
I also think that this needs to be refreshed periodically. As the Spirit leads, on occasion it is valuable for us to remind ourselves of the great compassion that the Lord extended to us who did not deserve it in the least. During these times we should humble ourselves before the Lord and express again our thanks and praise to Him for sending Jesus, and opening our eyes and hearts, reaching into our lives to set us free and promise us eternal life with Him in His kingdom.
It also takes a consistent faith to keep us in the proper perspective regarding our condition before the Lord and His mercy that was shown towards us. As we walk in the spirit, keeping our minds fixed on spiritual things, and on heavenly things, it will also keep a proper perspective regarding our gifted position in the forefront of our minds.
The keys elements that I see here in this lesson are: to keep humble before the Lord, to allow the Holy Spirit to keep us in check by influencing our consciences, and to periodically refresh our view of the compassion that the Lord had towards us when He forgave us from our many past sins and actions against Him and His ways, and accepted us as His children.
When a woman who was a sinner used her tears to washed Jesus feet and dry them with her hair, and kissed His feet and anointed them with a fragrant oil, the religious Jews or Pharisees were indignant and said that Jesus should have known better if He was really a prophet, and would not have allowed a “sinner” like her to have any contact with Him. Jesus said this:
“And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon [the Pharisee], I have something to say to you.’ So he said, ‘Teacher, say it.’ [Jesus said] ‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’ Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ “ Luke 7: 40-50
The sins of the Pharisees were probably as great if not greater than the woman’s sins, but since they did not see their own condition, nor had they humbled themselves before Jesus to seek forgiveness, they did not receive the compassionate forgiveness and therefore were not “forgiven much”.
More importantly, the woman had allowed the compassionate forgiveness of the Lord to deeply impact her, resulting in her appropriate actions towards the Lord Jesus.
Let us take the example of this woman to heart, allow the compassion that was shown towards us to be come a reality and also act accordingly.