By Dr. John Greever
There are moments when ideas converge in lucidity in Christian holy contemplation, a convergence that explodes to touch every aspect of life. In such moments, one wonders, “How in the world did I miss that before?”
The Unforgiving Forgiven Servant
I had a moment like that recently in thinking through the parable of Jesus recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. I had been pondering the way Satan uses our narcissistic tendency to view everything through the lens of self-serving gratification. Much goodness, marriages, families, and countless churches have been broken into oblivion over such matters. Given the fact that I was thinking about this at Thanksgiving time made the point evermore pertinent.
I Forgive How Many Times?
It seems to me that Jesus was touching a key aspect of fundamental Christian thinking and living. Peter had just asked Jesus how many times he would have to forgive an offending brother who had hurt him! It doesn’t take much insight to sense Peter’s struggle in this matter. Forgiveness is hard! I don’t mean saying, “I forgive you”; no, I mean really forgiving from the heart. Peter offered what in his mind was a generous option – seven times. Hey, that is plenty, right? Not really! Jesus blasted Peter’s paradigm of forgiveness and taught him (and us) in the parable of the unforgiving forgiven servant how God’s mercy births our humility and gratitude, showing our humble gratitude in treating others who offend us with mercy and kindness. Jesus taught Peter (and us) how God’s undeserved mercy dispensed in infinite and immeasurable dimensions bears the heart fruit of joy, gratitude, humility, and patient kindness with others.
Sin and Self-centeredness
Let us get honest…sin makes self-centered idolaters of us all! We don’t even have to try; we naturally and simply live out a narcissistic perspective in narcissistic lives. Narcissists take in and gobble up divine mercies with a single gulp without giving a thought to how undeserving we are and how good God is! We get bloated on God’s blessings and just keep going wondering why God does not do more for us. How distasteful this is! And even worse, we treat God with disdain and entertain in our hearts blasphemous thoughts of Him in times of trouble, blaming Him for every pain and inconvenience we experience. And not only that, we betray our selfish hearts by treating others with un-forgiveness and unkindness, all this in spite of the fact that we have been forgiven and treated with mercy by God to such a degree that we could never in all of eternity pay God back for what He has done for us in Christ.
All this sinful thinking makes sense in a world filled with screaming protests of perceived injustices, as though the greatest sin is for someone to violate our personal sensibilities. Give me a break! This kind of sinful thinking and living just does not make sense in light of God’s undeserved and bountiful mercies given to us in our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus.
It Is All About The Heart
The key to establishing affections, interpreting correctly life’s experiences, and determining appropriate behavior and responses to others is found in the heart. The problem with the unforgiving forgiven servant was that in his heart, he did not feel gratitude to the one who had given him the greatest gift of his life.
Gratitude to God in the context of His redemptive work for us in Christ, granted and given by sovereign mercy and grace, becomes the very basis, motivation, and inspiration for obedience to the Lord, for worship and praise to the worthy God of heaven and earth, and for patient longsuffering with offending brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us meditate regularly on the rich and undeserved gifts God has given to us in Jesus Christ through His saving work on our behalf and in our life experience. Let us pray that our hearts will be filled with joyful gratitude for all He has done for us and given to us in the blessed Savior. And let us seek to show our thankfulness for what God has done for us in Christ in the gospel by being patient and forgiving with each other for God’s glory.
Colossians 3:12 “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
John Greever is a professor of Bible at Missouri Baptist University and pastor of First Baptist Church in Fenton, MO. He is a part of the leadership team of Founders Midwest and will be a speaker the Founders Midwest Conference in 2019. If you would like to attend the Founders Midwest Conference in 2019, be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website for more information.