In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells the story of the unforgiving servant. The story is a grim warning. A servant who owed his master ten thousand bags of gold was forgiven. He found another servant who owed him a paltry sum and had him thrown into prison until he had paid his debt. When his master heard about it, he threw the unforgiving servant into jail to be tortured until he paid everything, which he could never do.
I don’t think this parable means our forgiveness through Christ’s death can be nullified if we don’t forgive others. However, I’m arrested by this thought of torturers.
Research shows that 75 to 98% of mental, physical and behavioral illness comes from one’s thought life (Brian Luke Seaward.) We are all aware of some of the physical effects of unforgiveness, including depression, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease.
A friend with fibromyalgia told me she felt a lot better after she started forgiving people who had hurt her in the past. She had once told me that when she had the pain, it was like she was being tortured. Forgiveness released her from this prison of torture.
I wonder if this was the sort of thing Jesus was talking about. When we withhold forgiveness, we suffer. I have heard it said unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Unforgiveness is not the only secret sin that can poison our lives but it is one I battle with so it is uppermost in my mind. Others are resentment, bitterness, envy, and covetousness (which is forbidden in the ten commandments.)
If we harbour these secret sins, we deserve to suffer. However, grace means not getting what we deserve and getting what we don’t deserve. Isaiah 53:4-5 reads, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
I picture Jesus on the cross, suffering the physical symptoms my poisoned thinking has caused.
“My Lord, what love is this, that pays so dearly, that I, the guilty one, may go free.” (Graham Kendrick)
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I confess I have entertained unforgiveness in my heart. Please forgive me and heal me. It is only by the power of Your Spirit that I can forgive. Please renew a right spirit within me every day. Amen.