The room is dark and every surface hard. A cold chill blows in from the tiny, barred window. It’s dank, and there’s a constant dripping from the ceiling that echoes through the room as it falls against the unforgiving ground. It relentlessly interrupts the peace of the one who shares the room.
Someone’s in prison because you put them there. We all put someone in prison when we choose not to forgive.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable of a man who owed his master ten thousand talents. He was not able to pay so he begged for mercy. The master had compassion and forgave a debt he could never repay.
That same servant then went and confronted a fellow servant who owed him a few hundred denarii. The second servant also begged for mercy but the first servant refused, and had him thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
In Greek mathematics, ten thousand was the highest possible number. A talent was worth approximately six thousand denarii, and one denarii was the amount of a day’s wage. Ten thousand talents would be equal to sixty-million day’s wages, or about 164,384 years. In other words, it is an impossible debt to repay.
Our debt as sinners to God is impossible to repay. Not only could we never know the amount to be repaid, but even if that amount could be counted, we would never have the proper currency. The only payment is death. So God sent Jesus—the sinless Son of God—to pay our debt in full. And when we accepted that payment, we were set free.
And then someone sins against us. The pain is significant but the debt is nowhere near what we were forgiven for—every sin we will ever commit. Still, sometimes we stubbornly refuse to forgive.
Jesus finishes the parable by saying,
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’” Matthew 18:32-35 NIV
You walk up to the darkened room and stand at the barred door.
You see the shadow of the person inside. Only your forgiveness can unlock the door.
You choose to forgive.
The lock snaps free and the door swings open with a creak. You strain to see who’s inside. The one you've set free walks forward to greet the light and breathe in the fresh air. You recognize the face only there's a new joy dancing in the person's eyes and a new love in the heart.