The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant from today’s gospel reading has never really grabbed me. Perhaps it is because the characters are a bit shady and the context rather off-putting. Perhaps, too, because I don’t identify with anyone in the story. In most of Jesus’ parables it is easy for me to locate myself – even in parables in which only plant material like trees or mustard seeds are the characters.
But in this one, a story told to Peter to shed light on forgiveness – one of the most important, if not THE most important reasons for Jesus – locating myself amidst this bunch of wealthy landowners, slaves, money made, money owed, men, prison, and torture has not come so easily.
And so when I opened up the reading, I nearly didn’t – read, that is. Truth be told many times I have to force myself to read stories I already know inside and out – especially gospel stories. But force myself I did, and praise God, the Spirit got the last word.
Literally. The last word. So after telling Peter the parable, WDJS – what does Jesus say? Well, nothing about money. Nothing about slaves. Nothing about men.
…forgive your brother or sister from your heart
Your brother or sister – meaning all with whom we are living alongside. Jesus thankfully brings this parable out of the unappealing context of its time into God’s time. Forgive your brother and sister as your Abba Father forgives you.
And from your heart – not your head. Forgiveness is “beyond calculating.”* It is authentic only if it comes from the heart. No calculated gesture or negotiated words – ‘yes, I forgive you for xyz, but…”
Forgiving someone – or for that matter an event or circumstance – as we are forgiven is letting go of blame and anger. Only by forgiving authentically from your heart can the blame and anger that lingers in the “I forgive you but…” expression be released. Heads negotiate, calculate, and risk-assess. Hearts let go and let God.
*NSRV footnote:NT pg 27