Problems in bestowingmercy always originate in problems with receivingmercy. When it seems particularly challenging to forgive offenders, we either forget or do not realize the grace imparted to us regarding our own offences.
The familiar parable of the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the two debtors illustrates this challenging truth:
“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt” (Matthew 18:23-30).
The sins of others often loom large in our thinking, while our own sins pale in comparison. This contradicts the Holy Spirit’s witness in our hearts regarding whose sins we should emphasize. No less than the Apostle Paul declared himself to be the “chief” of sinners (I Timothy 1:15). Had Paul actually distrusted and disobeyed God more than all others? Not likely. In his own heart and mind, however, the Apostle rightly perceived the measure and degree of sin. Rather than emphasize the wrongs of others committed against him, the man of God responded to the Lord’s reminders of how much He had forgiven Paul. Thus, his own failures and God’s wondrous mercy loomed large in our dear brother’s heart. When such a sensibility reigns in us, we join Paul in being unlikely to cast others into the debtor’s prison whose deepest and dankest cell we believe ourselves to rightly deserve.
In relative terms, I know very little of the sins of others. On the other hand, I have lived with my own for more than five decades now, experiencing both the internal and external realities of too frequent forays into unbelief and disobedience. Maintaining the focus on that of which I am most aware, namely,myself, places my heart in the proper place of humility toward both God and man. Thereby I find myself far more enabled to bestow upon others the mercy of Christ so abundantly administered to me. Indeed, no human being’s debt toward me begins to compare with the debit forgiven me by our Lord’s wondrous grace. This is the Holy Spirit’s emphasis in each of our hearts, making possible a rich experience of mercy personally received. Upon this basis, we then go forth to share our Lord’s delight in pardoning the guilty…
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christforgave you, so also do ye.”(Colossians 3:13)