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Jesus told a parable about an unmerciful servant. Steve Ham, AiG–U.S., explains how Christians need to treat others in light of the mercy God extended to us.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Today’s big question: how should we respond to God’s mercy?
In Matthew 18:21 Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sinned against him. Jesus responded by telling a parable about a servant who owed his king a large sum of money. After the man pled for the king to be patient with him, the king was moved with compassion and forgave his debt. However, even after receiving such mercy from the king, the debtor went to a person who owed him money and had him thrown in prison for not paying the debt. Jesus described what happened next:
Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matthew 18:32–34)
Matthew 18 is a very solemn passage for every Christian to read. In this wonderful chapter, Jesus taught us about the correct attitude for handling conflict with a brother or sister in Christ: be merciful.
We are all in the place of the unmerciful servant. All who have received salvation in Jesus Christ have received unlimited mercy. The mercy given to us is everlasting and covers an infinite debt. No person in our sinful human condition could possibly cover his or her own debt to God. Even if we were in hell for over a million years, our debt could not be paid because we have sinned against an infinitely holy God. Hence, the punishment must also be infinite.
This is the extent of God’s mercy. He has eternally covered our sin through Jesus Christ who paid the debt in full for us on the Cross. Although we do not deserve it, Jesus has graciously extended His mercy to us.
How are we to respond to His mercy? The King has forgiven our debt. Should we then refuse to forgive others? No matter what wrong someone else has done to us, there is no way it can compare to what we have done against our Creator. When we recognize how incredible God’s mercy is, then out of sincere gratitude to God we need to be merciful.
Jesus concluded His parable with a stern warning. After talking about how the king punished the man who refused to show mercy, Jesus said, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:35).
Today’s big idea: those who show mercy will receive mercy.
What to pray: pray for those you need to forgive, and then forgive them.