What happens to our inner life when we are unwilling to forgive someone, or let go of a tightly held grievance? What are the consequences of a closed heart and an unforgiving spirit? Not only do relationships strain or break, perhaps irreparably, but we will find ourselves spiritually uncomfortable. Those who seriously pray what Jesus taught his disciples, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt 6:12), find that receiving God’s unmerited forgiveness while refusing to become a person who forgives makes life difficult.
Jesus’ story of the unforgiving servant assumes the common understanding that someone who has been forgiven a great debt will surely be glad to forgive the smaller debt that someone owes them. Jesus draws a stark contrast between the size of the indebtedness in question. The servant’s debt is “ten thousand bags of gold” in contrast to “one hundred coins” owed to him (18:24, 28, CEB). Yet, the servant is unwilling to forgive the smaller amount owed and demands payment. When word gets around, such heartless ingratitude incenses the king and fellow servants.
Most of us will not experience the drastic punishment and social rejection that comes to the selfish servant. But the consequence of failing to extend the kind of reconciling love we receive from God is no less real. It results in a damaged spirit, a self-absorbed heart in the grip of anger and grievance, and ultimately a shriveled soul.
Mark Twain said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” When have you experienced what he describes?
God of forgiving love, stretch my heart to reflect the wideness in your mercy. Amen.