“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
It’s been months since I was having an inner struggle about a sister-in-Christ, one of the women I mentor. Last year, she asked for my counsel but it turned out that after the counseling, she felt offended by a certain statement that I said (of all the things we both discussed) without even talking to me about it. I felt I was taken advantage of and I really felt her ungratefulness. I exerted time, effort, and resources to meet up with her and then all I got was a complaint. I was deeply hurt. Then just a few weeks after that, the wound exacerbated when another offense was committed.
When all these happened, I didn’t know I was already harboring resentment. I thought, I already forgave her. But my fault is, I was trying to forgive her on my own. As the days went by, my man-given forgiveness turned into bitterness.
The bitterness I had for her became my stumbling block. I began to prejudice against her, I always thought ill of her motives and became too critical of her. At times when she would seek for counsel, my discouragement and bitterness prevented me from being warm and instead, made me cold and more reserved, as if I was always walking on thin ice, hoping not to offend her again. I was too careful to the point of almost being uncommunicative to her. The response was either, “Okay,” or “Good” with no follow-up nor showing of interest whatsoever. In short, my relationship with her turned sour. And to be honest, for a time, I loved the isolation.
But because God is a God of reconciliation and of peace, and a Father who cares about the holiness of His child, He didn’t allow me to go too far to sinning. As I was seemingly “enjoying the benefits” of isolation from her, there was a Voice that constantly rebuked me about the pleasure I feel. “It is not from the Lord, Sarah. You should forgive her and treat her well.” Treating anyone with malice and bitterness is definitely not of God’s will and character, even more so, treating someone that way from the family of believers.
This crazy cycle of unforgiveness and burning bridges ended in a highly unlikely time and place. One day, my husband and I attended a talk for couples and the last topic was all about forgiveness. Since the topic of forgiveness is not foreign to me, I wasn’t really expecting anything from it other than being reminded to forgive others as God forgave me. Besides, this is about forgiving one’s spouse, so I didn’t expect to be learning something new again. But then the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:23-35 was brought up.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The emphasis of this parable is not just why we need to forgive, but even more so on how much we are forgiven. It struck a chord in my heart because I saw God’s perspective on forgiveness and how He bailed me out from my great offense. Truth is, I am a great offender of God. And just like in the Parable, I could have probably owed God ten thousand talents which today is equivalent to several billions of dollars. But then God forgave me. He released me from my debt and set me free.
And here I was, getting upset about and throwing a fit over a hundred denarii that a sister-in-Christ owed me. One hundred denarii is equivalent to just a few thousand dollars today. Compared to what I owed to God, this is minuscule. But there I was and cried foul! God chose to deliver me from my debt, yet, I was trying to hold back and not forgive my sister.
So that very day, I confessed my sins of unforgiveness to the Lord and asked Him to help me forgive that person. As I prayed, the Lord even gave me heart of compassion towards her. It was liberating– to be able to see her as how God sees me. And had it not for God’s forgiveness to me, all my efforts to forgive would have been for naught. I forgive because I experienced the forgiveness of God to me first. And because I know how much I am forgiven, I am finally letting go of my 100 denarii.
Sarah Carpio is a follower of Jesus Christ. She is a loving helpmate to her husband Cio. They are blessed with three daughters. She is now pregnant with baby number 4. They now serve the Lord by ministering to young families and disciple them to be Christ-committed families who will make Christ-committed families.
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