We must take to heart this word from Christ’s parable: “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt. . . . Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matthew 18:32-33).
The question for every Christian is this: “Do I forgive my brethren? Do I put up with their differences?” If I refuse to love and forgive them, even as I have been forgiven, Jesus calls me a “wicked servant.”
Don’t misunderstand; this doesn’t mean we are to allow compromise. Paul preached grace boldly, but he instructed Timothy, “Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). We are to be bold guardians of pure doctrine.
Yet we are not to use doctrine to build walls between us. That was the sin of the Pharisees. The law told them, “Keep the Sabbath holy,” but the command itself wasn’t enough for their flesh. They added their own safeguards, multiple rules and regulations that allowed the fewest possible physical movements on the Sabbath. The law also said, “Do not take God’s name in vain.” But the Pharisees built even more walls, saying, “We won’t even mention God’s name. Then we won’t be able to take it in vain.”
What was the king’s response to his servant’s ingratitude in Jesus’ parable? Scripture says, “His lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him” (Matthew 18:34). In Greek, this translates, “taken to the bottom to be tormented.” I can’t help thinking Jesus is speaking here of hell.
So, what does this parable tell us? How does Christ sum up His message to His disciples, His closest companions? “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (18:35).
As I read this parable, I shudder. It makes me want to fall on my face and ask Jesus for a baptism of love toward my fellow servants. Here is my prayer and I urge you to make it yours as well: “God, forgive me. I am so easily provoked by others, and too often I respond in anger. Yet, I don’t know where my own life would be without Your grace and forbearance. I am amazed at Your love. Please help me to understand and accept Your love for me fully. Then I’ll be able to to be patient with my brethren, in your Spirit of love and mercy.”