It happened when the pardoned debtor demanded payment from the one who owed him (Matthew 18:21-35).
The king forgave the man’s unpayable debt, ten thousand talents. But that man, perhaps feeling he had somehow deserved the pardon, went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, less than one year’s wages. “And he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’”
I’m sorry, Took him by the throat?
This is what burns my mind’s eye. How the one forgiven could still tighten his grip around the life of a lesser debtor and demand justice. How the one who had been shown deep mercy could so quickly embrace justice. How the one who had been freed could use his freedom to enslave another.
I notice it as fingers grip the steering wheel, palms sweaty, grunting hatred at all the other drivers. I notice when I lose all self-control because of someone else’s lack of consideration.
Somewhere in the rage of slamming doors while brushing my teeth I realize my hands are wrapped around a person’s neck, demanding they pay or at least get out of my life. I’m horrified and yet horrifyingly still livid.
But it’s right there in the Tuesday of the Passion Week too. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26).
The only thing that can keep me from the costly forgiveness of Jesus is my refusal to extend the same to others, known or unknown. The pride of thinking anyone owes me, that I was good enough to die for, that people who don’t drive like I do should be banned from driving altogether, that I’m the judge and jury and any imposition on my life and times is punishable by my own passive aggressive hell-fire and brimstone.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). And if I’m not humbled by the lavish forgiveness of Jesus, I don’t understand Him at all, I don’t understand myself at all.
I listen to Louie as my feet pound pavement. Because fists pounding people seems less beneficial. He expounds on all the cruel injustice I have done to Jesus. It’s as crushing as it should be. Louie says there is only one Victim in the Gospel story, and I am not He.
All the violent rage I have felt toward those around me. All the pats on my own back for “righteousness” all mine. All the ways I have lied and stolen and blasted ingratitude. I put Jesus on the cross.
How great the gracious contradiction.
God Himself laid down on a cross
and let the rebels drive stakes through His hands
because He had purposed to never again
lay His hands on our throats in a demand for justice.
The same hands picked up dirt to fashion hearts. The same hands hold the only righteous gavel of the Judge. The same hands were fastened to the cross so justice would not take my life.
Where Jesus had every right to wring life from my neck, He spread open His arms and died instead.
Where Jesus had every reason to stay seated in glory, He laid down on my cross, despised and rejected.
And this is it. The bloodied, loving, nail-trapped hands of God require my self-righteous, self-centered, neck-clenching fingers let go.
There is only one Victim. He is the Victim of Katie. And His wounds are my hiding place for all life’s offenses.
His wounds are my hiding place for all life’s offenses.
Yes, the one thing that can keep me from Jesus today is to deny forgiveness. The one thing that can keep me from basking in the goodness of this Friday is to let the bitterness breathe lies. For the sake of the One who fell victim to me and yet gladly died to forgive, I must forgive.
Because Jesus’ hands bled grace when He should have choked justice. Because Jesus’ arms spread wide when they should have wrought wrath. Because Jesus has died on my cross. Because my refusal to forgive suffocated the Savior.
I can hide in His shadow, stone heart warmed to life in the blood, and cry freedom for all my debtors. Rather than fester and inflict revenge, we can all be hidden in Christ. Our healing is not found in the fresh wounds of our debtors, but in the wounds Jesus wears for our sin.
A moment to consider…
- Do you feel like a victim today? Spend time with Jesus, as long as it takes, letting Him love you through His wounds.
- Who do you need to forgive today? Regardless of their behavior or their repentance, Jesus has offered you healing. What He suffered is enough.