Unforgiveness & the Torturers
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:34-35 NIV
In this passage Jesus gave a sobering lesson on the need to forgive. Unforgiveness (AKA resentment, bitterness, holding grudges, seeking revenge, etc.) is a commonly overlooked sin that can open the door to evil spirits (“the torturers” and block God’s forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 6:14-15).
The irony of unforgiveness is that it does the most damage to the person who harbors it, rather than the person that committed the offense. When we’ve been wronged by someone, we may feel justified in harboring ill feelings toward that person. It may even feel “good” to hold on to those feelings, as if we’re paying the perpetrator back with what they deserve. This is a deception, because unforgiveness actually harms us more than the person we’re not forgiving. Like acid, unforgiveness destroys the one who holds it, making his own life more miserable and fruitless.
Harboring unforgiveness gives evil spirits a “legal right” to afflict us. Jesus described them as “the torturers” in the above parable. They can manifest themselves in many ways, all involving some type of pain. Examples can include evil thoughts, perversions, hatred, mocking thoughts, despair, depression, bondage, illness, compulsions, addictions and many others.
If we’re guilty of not forgiving someone, the way to freedom is to forgive the person and then ask God to forgive us. Keep in mind that forgiving someone does not mean that we’re condoning what they did. Rather, forgiving is releasing the offense and the perpetrator to God. God is the judge of all people and will ultimately ensure that justice is done. If we can trust God with the situation, we’ll be free of the burden and the torturers won’t have a foothold in us any more.
Questions for further thought:
- Considering the above parable, what should be the primary reason that we forgive others? (32-33)
- Take a moment to think back through your life. Are there any persons who you did not forgive? (including God and yourself)
- How has that unforgiveness affected your life?
Prayer of Forgiveness:
“Lord God, You are perfect in justice, great in mercy and perfect in love. I confess that I have not forgiven as you have commanded me to. Through Jesus Christ, I now forgive these people: _________________ (list names and what they did to you). I release these people and the wrongs they did to me into your hands right now. Please forgive me Lord and cleanse me from my sin. Please help me to no longer think on those wrongs , but instead to focus my thoughts on you. I invite you, Lord, into any painful memories I have concerning what was done. Please heal any wounds I received and help me to have your perspective on what happened. (Take time now to pray silently and receive from the Lord) Thank you, Father! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.”