We all the know the pain of being hurt by the words and actions of others. Too often I hear “I forgive but I don’t forget.” When we refuse to forget what others have said or done to us, we truly haven’t forgiven them, but we are holding on for some future moment when we can hold it over their head. Christ has warned us, it is only when we forgive AND FORGET, just as He has done for us, can we be forgiven by God and welcomed into paradise.
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This morning in the gospel, my brothers and sisters, we hear a very serious warning from Christ. He begins His gospel with seemingly innocent words. He says, "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants." So we know from the very beginning of the reading that this is how God is going to look at us when the time comes for our judgment. We have to listen to this story and absorb everything in this story and live the truth of this story if we want to find ourselves with God in heaven.
The story, we know. The man had a huge debt that he owed the king, and just because he asked for a little patience, the king forgave the entire debt, and the debt, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, would never have been possible for him to repay the king. As long as he was alive, he would never have been able to pay it back. And yet, simply because he asked this god, asked the master, he says, "Okay, it is forgiven. The debt has been washed clean."
And immediately, that man went out and he found someone who owed him a very small debt. It says in the scriptures, "A hundred denari, a hundred days' wage, not even a season's worth of work." And the man said, "Just be patient and I will repay you everything." He said, he refused, and he threw him in the debtors' prison for a small little thing.
And if that wasn't bad enough, the master calls him back. He says, I'll use my words now, "Are you kidding me? I just forgave that huge debt that you owed to me simply because you asked. Can't you at least have the same kind of compassion on your fellow servant?"
And that word compassion in Greek, σπλαγχνισθεὶς, the word comes from our innards, our guts. "Can't you have the guttural compassion?" Christ is saying. And that's the key, my brothers and sisters, to forgiveness. You see, many times I hear, "Father, I forgive, but I do not forget." Then that's not forgiveness. That is simply putting off until later when we can hold it over someone's head, and it could be one year, it could be 10 years, it could be five, doesn't matter.
But at some point, if we refuse to forget what has been done to us, at some point, we are planning to hold it over their head either intentionally or unintentionally, because maybe we can't trust them any longer or maybe we refuse to believe them because of something they said or did to us. But if we refuse to let it go, if we insist on holding on to what they did to us, then we have not forgiven them. And this is where the very stern warning from Christ comes in his gospel, "So my heavenly Father will also do to each of you, if from his heart, he does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
We, my brothers and sisters, will be condemned to eternity of pain and suffering, of anguish, of you name it, we're going to suffer with it if we cannot forgive even the smallest thing that someone has done to us, because God has forgiven us so much more. You see, unfortunately, we have a skewed, a misunderstanding of sin. Our sin, my brothers and sisters, is no different than any other person's sin. My sin, your sin, his sin, her sin, sin is sin, and each and every one of us, because we have sinned, we deserve death, and because we ask God for forgiveness, He will forgive us.
Raise your hand for just a moment. How many of you say the Πάτερ υμών on a daily basis, the Our Father? How many of you pray the Our Father daily? Right? Have you ever paid attention to the words, "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," in English. We are telling God, "Only forgive me, God, as much as I forgive somebody else." We are telling God in that prayer that we will not be forgiven until we can learn in our hearts to forgive other people.
And so my invitation for you today, my brothers and sisters, is to search in your innards and look for that guttural compassion for your fellow human being, brother, sister, family, stranger. Doesn't matter who it is because we are fellow servants of God and this is what the kingdom of heaven is going to be like when the time comes for our judgment.
We are going to stand in front of God, and by then, it will be too late to change our hearts. Now is our opportunity, when we are alive, when we are walking the face of the earth, when there's still breath in our lungs, now is the time to forgive and forget. Now I'm sure some of you, maybe all of you, "Father, it's not so easy. I've been hurt. I feel this pain still after all these years."
I understand. I understand how difficult it can be, but I also understand that when we open our hearts, and only when we open our hearts, can God take the pain away. Only when we allow ourselves that opportunity, can God replace the pain with peace because when we hold on to something ... I'm sure we've all felt that anxiety, we hear a person's name or we see them across the way and we get tense. That feeling can be with us for all eternity if we don't learn to get rid of it.
This is God's invitation today, so I challenge us, I challenge us to look inside the depth of our hearts and have compassion and have forgiveness and to forgive and forget what anyone has said or done to us, and then we will experience God's forgiveness and love. Then He will escort us into His kingdom for all eternity. Glory to God for all things.
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