Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
–Ephesians 4:32

Why forgive? Forgiveness is the obligation of the forgiven. In the Bible, there is an inseparable link between receiving God’s forgiveness and giving that forgiveness to others.

That is what we see in Jesus’s parable in Matthew 18. How did the king find out about the unforgiving slave? The servants told him. There was a gossip network among the servants. When they heard that this slave who had been forgiven a massive debt of $16 billion refused to forgive his fellow slave a small debt of only $16, they knew something was fundamentally wrong with that. So they tattled to the king about what the first slave had done. You see, forgiveness is the obligation of those have been forgiven. The relationship between the king and the first slave is a picture of God’s relationship to us. God is willing to forgive us of any and all of our debts. We can’t earn it. We receive God’s forgiveness as a gift. But the relationship between the first slave and the second slave is a picture of our relationship to other people who wrong us.

Now, the $16 debt that the second slave owed the first slave was just as real and just as legitimate as the $16 billion debt that the first slave owed the king. The first slave had a legal right to his $16 just as the king had a right to his $16 billion. The first slave had a legal right to receive that debt, but he had no moral right to it, considering the great forgiveness he had just received. And that is what Jesus is saying to every one of us through this parable.

When you read about forgiveness, God may bring to your mind somebody who has wronged you and hurt you deeply. It might be a parent who abused you. It may be a mate who abandoned you. It may be a business partner who cheated you. It may be a friend who betrayed you. It may be a stranger who injured you. Did you know Jesus is not denying the reality of that hurt? He is not asking you to sweep it under the rug, and He is not diminishing the pain you are suffering because of that hurt. All Jesus is asking you to do is to keep that hurt in perspective. As you think about what your offender did to you, think about what you have done to God. The whole point of this parable is simply this: the difference between how much somebody has wronged you and how much you have wronged God is the difference between $16 and $16 billion.

The apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” That’s the best argument I know of for forgiveness.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiveness on Trial” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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