In the parable of Matthew 18:23-35 did the king overlook his servant’s sin? Did he wink at his debt and merely excuse it? No, not at all. The fact is, by forgiving him, the king placed upon this man a weighty responsibility, a responsibility even greater than the burden of his debt. Indeed, this servant now owed his master more than ever. How? He was responsible to forgive and love others, just as the king had done for him.
What an incredible responsibility this is. And it can’t be separated from Christ’s other kingdom teachings. After all, Jesus said, “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). His point is clear: “If you don’t forgive others, I won’t forgive you.” This word isn’t optional, it’s a command. Jesus is telling us, in essence, “I was forbearing with you. I handled you with love and mercy and I forgave you out of My goodness and mercy alone. Likewise, you are to be loving and merciful toward your brothers and sisters. You’re to forgive them freely, just as I forgave you. You’re to go into your home, your church, your workplace, into the streets, and show everyone the grace and love I showed you.”
Paul refers to Jesus’ command, saying, “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13). He then expounds on how we pursue obedience to this command: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any. . . . Above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (3:12-14).
What does it mean to be forbearing? The Greek word means “to put up with, to tolerate.” This suggests enduring things we don’t like. We’re being told to tolerate the failures of others, to put up with ways we don’t understand.