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A Heart of Stone

Key References: Matthew 18:21-35; Christ’s Object Lessons, chap. 19, pp. 243-251; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 8, pp. 128-130; 91-93; Our Beliefs, nos. 7, 8, 10

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“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5).

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God’s forgiveness has no limits.

Have you ever wondered what forgiveness means and how much you need to forgive? The disciples wondered about such things too, so Jesus answered their question by telling them a parable.

A rich and powerful king began to collect on the debts that were owed to him by other people. In the process he discovered that one of his servants owed him 10,000 talents of gold. That was more money than the servant could earn in his entire lifetime. There was no way this servant could ever pay back what he owed. The servant was brought before the king and was told that until the debt was paid back, he along with his children and his wife would be thrown in jail. The man fell down and begged the king, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all” (Matthew 18:26). Of course, this wasn’t even possible for the man to do, so the king decided to do something wonderful! He forgave the servant and let him go free!

If you were the servant, wouldn’t you want to live the rest of your life in grateful service to the one who treated you with such undeserved kindness? Well, you would think so, but unfortunately the servant hadn’t learned the value of forgiveness. As soon as he left the king’s court, he remembered that one of his coworkers owed him a few dollars. Filled with anger, the servant approached his coworker in a fury, demanding that he should pay what he owed. The coworker fell to his knees begging for mercy and asked for time to repay his debt. But the servant would not listen. He had his coworker thrown into jail until the debt could be paid. When the king heard about this, he could hardly believe his ears. How could someone who had been forgiven so much not have mercy on someone who owed him so little? The king took that ungrateful servant and threw him in jail till he should pay all that he owed. The story reminds us that if we desire God’s forgiveness, we too need to forgive those who have wronged us (see Matthew 18:35).

Do you know that like the servant in the story, each of us owes a debt that we can never pay back? Everyone has sinned by doing things that hurt people’s feelings and ultimately hurt God. Lying, being unkind, or gossiping are only a few of the hurtful things that bring sorrow to others and to Jesus. The Bible says that the penalty (or cost) for sin is death. But Jesus came to pay the debt of your sins and mine. By dying on the cross, he paid our debt in full. Now we can enjoy the free gift of salvation that God offers to us. We can live with Jesus forever. But how can we forgive someone who has really wronged us? Yes, it’s true that we are human, and sometimes things may seem hard for us to do. However, God promises to give us the tender heart we need to really forgive others. When we realize what Jesus has done for us, we will be so thankful for the eternal life he offers us that we will find it much easier to forgive others.

Peter, one of the disciples, asked Jesus many times we should forgive someone. Peter thought that seven times would be more than enough. But Jesus said to him, “not seven times but seventy times seven” (see Matthew 18:21, 22).

The answer to that math problem is a big number. The point is that we would lose count of forgiving someone that many times. So what should we do? The Bible tells us that no matter how many times we have forgiven someone, we should go to that person and talk to them kindly about the problem. Sometimes we might need to ask them to forgive us, too.

True freedom comes from accepting God’s forgiveness and sharing that forgiveness with others. Today you may accept the challenge to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).