2014 is here, normality has returned and the festive season is barely more than a fading memory. Yet, for some, this Christmas past, is not entirely “past”. What was supposed to be festive, was feudal; old scores got re-aired, things got out of hand and now people are no longer talking to each other. The problem of bearing grudges and withholding forgiveness is age-old and Jesus provides a short story to help us figure it out and work it through.
The parable, there in Matthew chapter 18, has as its opening scene a King settling accounts. One man had an eye-watering debt of 10,000 talents. In our money, one single talent was the same as 6,000 Roman denarii and 1 denarius was a day’s wage. So, for this man to work off his debt, would have taken around 160,000 years! That is over 3,000 working lifetimes!!
Jesus’ story shows the King willing to forgive him. However, bang on cue, along comes a friend who just happens to own him a measly 100 denarii (which he could pay back in just 3 months). The man shows his true wickedness, he categorically refuses to forgive.
The story ends with the King, who stands for God the Father, withdrawing his remarkable offer of complete forgiveness to the first man, who stands for every one of us who are so heavily dipped in sin that 3,000 lifetimes will not suffice to put things right, since he failed to pass on even a tiny fraction of that same forgiveness to his friend.
If Christmas left you scarred and bearing a grudge, perhaps your own 3,000 lifetimes of debt will re-awaken in you God’s gentle yet firm call to forgive and forget.