Forgiveness is a mundane part of almost everyone’s daily life, Christian or not. We make mistakes and we are forgiven. Sometimes we are malicious and we are forgiven. Most people are pretty forgiving, up to a limit. The problems come in when offenses multiply and it becomes obvious that they are not mistakes.
Peter is bring such a case to Jesus. He wonders what the limit is, and he proposes a pretty high limit of seven. The answer Jesus gives is that essentially, for the Christian, forgiveness must be limitless.
The reason is given in a parable. In the parable, we must picture the king as a gentile, because jailing of wives and children is not permitted in Jewish law for the satisfaction of a man’s debt, nor is torture allowed.
The slave of verse 24 must be an important underling of the king, perhaps the governor of a territory, because somehow he rang up an insurmountable debt. A talent is 6000 denarii, so 10,000 talents is 600,000,000 denarii. A denarii is a day’s wages for a laborer, so 10,000 talents would pay a laborer for about a million and a half years. That’s a big debt.
Did this guy embezzle money from the king? It’s difficult to image such a debt. But while being sent to prison for it, he begs for time to repay it. He didn’t even ask for forgiveness, just time. All he needs is a couple million years.
But the king has compassion and forgives the debt. That is the perfect picture of the forgiveness God offers us. He forgives the unpayable debt out of compassion.
This ought to be a life-changing moment for the slave and for us. He should become the most forgiving guy in the ancient world, and we should be the most forgiving people in the modern world.
But he wasn’t and we aren’t, either.
The king heard about the unforgiving nature of the forgiven man and reversed his decision to forgive, sending to man to torture.
In a sense, God’s forgiveness is contingent on us becoming forgiving people. I don’t see God as anxious to reverse his decision, but he will do it if we are recalcitrant enough in our unwillingness to forgive others. This is not to say that our salvation is not secure, but it is to say that it is possible for us to turn our backs on God and go our own way. He will allow it.
His way is forgiveness. Our way must be forgiveness.