Lie not one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. Where there is neither Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian bond nor free but Christ is all in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also are ye called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
The next quality to work out is forgiveness. Paul stars with the conditional statement: if any man has a quarrel against any. The word quarrel here meaning an occasion of complaint.
That complaint may well be justified. A brother may well have wronged another in a serious way, but Paul urges forgiveness. And this forgiveness is to be in the same way that Christ forgave us.
Christ forgave us freely and graciously, so we too must do likewise. It is God’s intention to conform us to Christ’s image, and this is one aspect of that conformity.
Forbearing and forgiving. We all have failings and faults, which may well irritate others, they too have such idiosyncrasies that would irate us. We are exhort to forbear, make allowances for them as we would expect them to do for us. Failure to do so may well end up in the anger and wrath as describe earlier.
Jesus had a lot to say about forgiveness so let us consider a parable that summarises this teaching.
B3.2 The Debt
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Here we have Peter asking how many times we should forgive. Jesus gave the answer seven times seventy. Meaning just carry on forgiving! There is some debate as to the exact figure, but whatever the detail it doesn’t take away the sense of the verse. Jesus tells that us we are to forgive without limit. He then puts this parable as an illustration.
A man is indebted to the value of 10,000 talents. He begs for mercy and forgiveness, and the debt was written off. The same man was owed 100 pence by a fellow servant, who in turn begged for patience with him. The first man did not forgive but cast him into prison until the debt was paid. The master on hearing this was angry with the first servant, and because he refused to forgive the man with the lesser debt, the master rescinded his forgiveness and cast the man into prison.
This said Jesus is what the Father will do if we do not forgive his brother from his heart.
To see the point being made we need to consider the monies involved.
A penny (denarii) was a day’s wage, so 100 pennies was 100 days wage or approximately a third of a year’s wage. A talent is considered equivalent to 6 years wage. So 10,000 talents would be a sum equivalent to 60,000 years wages. A vast sum indeed. In fact a debt no one could pay!
The comparison becomes obvious. We are indebted to God because of our sin, a debt we cannot possibly repay. Yet because of Christ’s redeeming work we are able to be forgiven of that debt of sin. So if we are forgiven that much, how much more should we forgive one another whose debt to each other is insignificant compared to that we had towards God?
Jesus finishes with the comment that if we don’t forgive the brethren from our hearts neither will the Father forgive us. This is summed up in the ‘Lord’s prayer’:
…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors……….for if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
All of this is summed up for us by Paul in the Ephesian letter.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted , forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.