Once upon a time there was a woman. We’ll call her Anna. And Anna was great at helping other people out. She would bring meals to the sick, watch other people’s children, take care of their pets when they were away, slip some extra cash to the less fortunate of her friends. She encouraged and showed mercy and helped out wherever she could.
But one day, Anna found herself in need. She had been in a pretty bad accident, and was going to be out of work for at least 6 months. She lived by herself, so she had no other source of income. She had no way to buy groceries or pay for her utilities.
Now, all these people she had helped out, they had all offered to repay her if she ever needed it. So she started calling people up, asking for a little help here and there. And most of her friends reciprocated as they could.
That is, all until she called one woman, whom we’ll call Kate. Anna had helped Kate all the way through college. She’d paid most of Kate’s tuition and even offered her a place to sleep and meals to eat, completely free of charge. So Kate kind of owed Anna a pretty big payback. But unfortunately, Kate still wasn’t doing well financially. She was going from temp job to temp job, living with a friend and catching rides from other people. She couldn’t offer anything to help her friend. And she cried and pleaded with Anna not to hold it against her, asking her to show mercy and keep helping her out, and begging her not to let it ruin their friendship.
Anna, being a gracious woman, easily forgave Kate and continued to show compassion on her, even as she herself was struggling financially.
But the very next day, Anna heard something that riled her up. Right after the two women had talked, Kate had called up another friend (Debbie), and demanded a favor. While Anna had asked for help with her very living expenses, Kate just wanted someone to loan her a few dollars so she could go to Six Flags for the day with some friends… it was a pretty small request compared to what had been asked of her! But when Debbie couldn’t help (her finances were pretty tight too), Kate flew into a rage and said some pretty nasty things. She claimed their friendship wasn’t real, and that it wasn’t worth continuing, just because Debbie couldn’t help this one time. She promised to tell all her friends how selfish Debbie was, how unhelpful she had been.
But when Anna heard about this, she got pretty angry too. Not at Debbie, but at Kate. And she invited Kate over for a chat, and spoke pretty sternly to her. Anna told her that, until she forgave Debbie this little request, she would not receive any more mercy from Anna. She was abusing Anna’s compassion and forgiveness, and would not see any more of it until she showed the same compassion to Debbie.
Kate found herself in a self-made prison of rage and unforgiveness. She had the power to unlock her cell, but only by unlocking Debbie’s cell first. Until she did that, she would be miserable and discontent in her own little cell.
When was the last time you refused to forgive someone for some little offense? Or for something that they couldn’t do, that you wanted from them? How about when your spouse didn’t take out the trash when you wanted? Or when that lady at church parked where you usually park every single week? Or when you asked a friend to water your plants while you were away, and it completely slipped their mind? Or…. well, I’m sure you can think of something.
Do you realize how much more than that we offend our heavenly Father? We flat out reject His promises. We ignore His laws. We decide that we’re smarter than He is, that we can figure out things on our own and rely our own faulty knowledge.
And yet, He always, Always, ALWAYS forgives us when we ask. He ALWAYS has compassion on us.
Shouldn’t we do the same, to our fellow men and women who are just as human as we are? They owe us so little compared to what we owe God. Their offenses are so tiny compared to our great sin before our Creator. And if we refuse to forgive others for their little offenses against us, we will find ourselves locked in our own prisons of miserableness and discontentment. We will be unhappy until we release others from their debts against us, and choose to show compassion.
Because after all, we owe such a great debt to God, and He’s forgiven it all. Do we dare to not do the same?
‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant,
as I had mercy on you?’
And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,
until he should pay all his debt.
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you,
if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.