In Matthew 18:21 Peter asks Jesus how many times he has to forgive his brother, seven times? It seems to me Peter is asking Jesus what the limits of grace really are? Just how far does God expect his people to extend grace to others? So Jesus tells them a story about a man who owed a king umpteen zillion dollars. What is hilarious about the story is the man asks for patience, saying he will pay him back in full. The point is, paying it all back within the next 5000 years was an absurd thought. The king not only has patience with the man, he forgives the debt in full. He didn’t deserve it. He didn’t earn it. He should have walked away with so much joy over the grace God had extended him that the only possible response would be to be more forgiving and graceful to others.
Sadly, he hadn’t learned anything. Immediately he sees a man who owes him something…a few hundred bucks at most. He seizes the man, chokes him and demands repayment! The whole point of grace was lost on this man even though he had been forgiven so much. Jesus point is, if we understand just how much God has forgiven us, the things others owe us will pale in comparison and our generosity and graciousness should overflow toward those indebted to us (not just monetarily…remember Peter’s question, which Jesus was answering here, was not about money).
Now comes the scary part. Most of us would not physically choke another human being in order to squeeze a few bucks out of them. But when we withhold forgiveness for a wrong done that is exactly what we are doing. There is no way to justify that. Instead, God wants us to pass on the forgiveness the king has extended to us to as many people as possible. When we do, we show that we understand what grace is all about. When we don’t, we show that God’s grace in our lives has taught us nothing (see what happened to him at the end of the story).