By Pastor Ian Cotton
In the parable on forgiveness (Matthew 18:21), the king summoned the unmerciful servant, and “said unto him, you wicked servant, I forgave all your debt, because you asked me; and you should have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on you. The king imprisoned him until he should pay his debt.” “So likewise,” said Jesus, “shall My Heavenly Father do also unto you, if from your hearts you do not forgive every one their trespasses.” He who refuses to forgive is thereby casting away his own hope of pardon.
But the teaching of this parable should not be misapplied. God’s forgiveness toward us lessens in no wise our duty to obey Him. So the spirit of forgiveness toward our fellow men does not lessen the claim of just obligation. In the prayer which Christ taught His disciples He said, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12.
By this He did not mean that in order to be forgiven our sins we must not require what we are owed. If they cannot pay, even though this may be the result of unwise management, they are not to be cast into prison, oppressed, or even treated harshly; but the parable does not teach us to encourage indolence.
The Bible declares that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10.) The Lord does not require the hard-working man to support others in idleness. With many there is a waste of time, a lack of effort, which brings to poverty and want. If these faults are not corrected by those who indulge them, all that might be done in their behalf would be like putting treasure into a bag with holes. Yet there is an unavoidable poverty, and we are to manifest tenderness and compassion toward those who are unfortunate.
We should treat others, just as we ourselves, in like circumstances, would wish to be treated. The one who makes accusations is of Satan.
But sin is not to be lightly regarded. The Lord has commanded us not to suffer wrong upon our brother. He says, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him.” Luke 17:3. Sin is to be called by its right name, and is to be plainly laid out before the wrongdoer.
“If your brother sins against you,” Christ said, “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hears, you hast gained a brother. But if he will not hear you, then go with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Matthew 18:15-17.
Our Lord teaches that matters of difficulty between Christians are to be settled within the church. They should not be opened before those who do not fear God. If a Christian is wronged by his brother, let him not appeal to unbelievers in a court of justice. Let him follow out the instruction Christ has given. Instead of trying to avenge himself, let him seek to save his brother. God will guard the interests of those who love and fear Him, and with confidence we may commit our case to Him who judges righteously.
Too often when wrongs are committed again and again, and the wrongdoer confesses his fault, the injured one becomes weary, and thinks he has forgiven quite enough. But the Saviour has plainly told us how to deal with the erring: “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. Consider “thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1.