The Bible is full of examples where the Lord shows mercy to us, wiping clean our sins and making us whole. Matthew 18:22 says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times”, which was Christ’s answer to Peter when he asks how many times must I forgive my brother. However, immediately following this verse, Christ tells a parable that I have never heard discussed in church. It is rather long, so I will summarize but encourage you to take out your Bible and read verses 23-35 of Matthew 18.
Remember, this is a parable coming from Christ and is teaching He will be merciful to us only if we show mercy to others. In this parable, a servant that owed a debt to his master was brought before the master. When he could not repay the debt, he pleaded for mercy and the master granted him mercy, canceling his debt. It is very much like Christ’s mercy for us. However, when another servant who owed a debt to the servant who was shown mercy could not pay, he showed no mercy. When the master heard that after he had shown mercy on the servant, this same servant refused mercy on another, he became angry. The master took back the mercy he had shown for his servant, had him thrown in jail and tortured until he paid his debt. This master was not just disappointed, but he had the evil servant punished.
Now this is a parable told by Christ and He did not spell out exactly what the meaning of it is, so you need to read it and decide for yourself what Christ is telling us. Here is my understanding. I believe the Lord will show mercy to us and bless us, but then expects action on our part by showing love to others as He has for us. It is clear to me that the Lord will take back His blessings if we do not follow through on what He is asking of us. Again, the Lord is merciful and loving, but He expects mercy and love in our actions as well. The Lord is loving and merciful, but cannot be walked on or taken advantage of.
Now as harsh as this may sound, remember verse 22 that is quoted above. God’s love is so great, He is willing to forgive you over and over again as you attempt to grow in your understanding of His teachings. There are severe consequences to those who turn their back on the Lord, but the Lord does not give up that quickly. You will be judged by the content of your heart and the commitment you have for the Lord. He is not sitting there waiting for you to mess up so He can take back what He has given you.
Having said this, how can we possibly ignore a story or parable like this one? God will work with us, forgive us, empower us, but then we have a responsibility to do His will and follow what He tells us to do. We must understand what it is that God expects from us, and we are held accountable for our actions, good or bad. Therefore, study your Bible, understand what it says and then do it.
Steve Childers is the author of Catholic or Protestant: What our Churches Should Be Teaching. Visit www.CatholicOrProtestant.com
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