Our thesis over this journey through Lent has been “God’s forgiveness forges the way to soul healing.” One conviction that stands alongside this thesis is that forgiveness is costly. One of Jesus most famous stories on forgiveness comes in Mathew 18. There a king is owed a debt by a debtor. The debt is an astounding number compared maybe to the national debt of the United States (ok maybe not that big but it is an exaggerated number that Jesus gives). The debtor of course cannot pay this insurmountable debt back to the King. He begs for mercy and for more time. The King, showing his character, grants mercy. He cancels the debt. The word used for cancel is the same word that is normally translated as forgive in the New Testament. That man’s debt chains were then released. It’s a beautiful picture.
Yet it is also a costly picture. That insurmountable debt was actually paid for. It was paid for by the King. The King who was moved to mercy acted on behalf of the debtor. What an incredible image of the Gospel and what God did for us! The King of Kings was moved by our sin chains. It cost God – it cost God His son Jesus. Jesus willingly laid down His life on the cross, nailing our debt to the cross. Let that cost linger for a bit.
You would think that experiencing the mercy of the King and seeing the cost it took to pay the debtor’s debt would now move the freed debtor into gratitude that would spill over to mercy for the world around him. That’s not the story Jesus tells though. The story Jesus tells is that someone else owed our debtor a measly sum compared to the insurmountable debt he owed the King. The man who owed the measly sum (a Starbucks coffee – expensive but not insurmountable) asked for the same response as our debtor asked the King – mercy. Instead, our debtor gave out judgment. After all this is money we are talking about and he owes me! Word of this reaches the King, and the King is outraged. Had this debtor not been grateful? Couldn’t this debtor pass on mercy? Didn’t this debtor see what forgiveness had cost the King? No, the debtor only thought about what canceling the debt would cost himself. In the end, it turned out to be more costly to not forgive, as the King sent our debtor away to judgment. Forgiveness is costly, but it is more costly not to forgive. So search your soul. Remember the cost of Christ’s forgiveness. Is there someone who you need to forgive? What will it cost you?