Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matthew 13:10-13 ESV)
“Blessed are the merciful,” (Matthew 5:7). A quick run through Google Search will reveal that today the most common uses of the word mercy or merciful are in no way connected with the ancient context. The word mercy is frequently used in the name of hospitals, or in the phrase, “showed no mercy“. The Golden State Warriors “showed no mercy” in their 4 games to 1 win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. The word merciful tends to approach a more nurturing application. “The jury returned a merciful verdict for the homeless man who broke into the Merciful Saviour Cathedral to escape the cold.”
What is your best description of mercy?
Jesus told a story to teach the people about mercy and peak their interest in the gospel of the new covenant.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)
What are your initial thoughts about this parable?
If all Christians were perfect, there would be no need for these instructions, but because we fail and sin, we need to know how to keep the church family happy and holy. We have often discussed the futile endeavor of counting, classifying, and inventorying our sins. It keeps us focused on sin and ultimately draws us away from Christ because we are so obsessed with ourselves. What about keeping track of the good things we do, that’s okay, right?
How is this focus on self any different than a sin inventory? What are the dangers of good deed lists?
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:5 ESV) [Old Covenant Context]
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV) [New Covenant Context]
Peter thought he was “extra-spiritual” for offering to forgive seven times, because the Jewish rabbis said that three times was enough. Jesus put no limit on forgiveness, for true forgiveness comes from a heart of love, and love keeps no record of wrongs.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT emphasis added; some translations may read “not resentful” instead of the emphasized text)
The lesson of the parable is obvious: if the king could forgive the servant’s debt of $12,000,000, certainly the servant could forgive his friend’s debt of about $15! We forgive others because Christ has forgiven us.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)
Keep in mind that this has nothing to do with salvation; it is a matter of “family forgiveness” between siblings in Christ, not between God and the sinner; so do not read eternal judgment into Matthew 18:34. God will certainly deal with a believer who harbors an unforgiving spirit. Do you struggle with a particular injustice in your life that is robbing you of the joy you have inherited in Christ?
One of the pieces of evidence that a person is saved is love for the brethren.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10 ESV)
Christians who cannot forgive others have forgotten what Christ has done for them on the cross. The church must beware of “the leaven of malice and wickedness” that will silently grow and corrupt the entire fellowship.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV)
Forgiveness and mercy are tools in the hands of God. Being used to further the Kingdom, by the very hand of God, brings growth and abundance to our walk with Christ. When someone in your life cannot pay, don’t pay the humiliation and pain forward by punishing him before your brothers and sisters.