How mercy should work as told in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
As Christians, we often talk about the necessity of forgiveness. We need to be forgiven and to forgive others. When it comes to talking about mercy, we always seem to focus on God’s mercy. Rightly so. God’s mercy is a resounding theme throughout the entire Bible. His eternal wisdom and plan could not even exist unless His mercy was, is and will be in place. So, if being merciful is such an important part of God’s plan, and Jesus came and mercifully gave his life for Adam’s sin and redeemed the world, what about me? How does mercy fit into my life? Am I a merciful Christian? What does mercy really mean, and how do I know how and when to use it?
70 x 7
The Apostle Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother for continually sinning against him. As a proposed answer to his own question, Peter offered a solution I am sure he thought was generous. Should I forgive him up to seven times? Jesus' answer was a clear and eye-opening response. He said (and I am dramatizing this) seven times – are you kidding? You should forgive him seventy times seven! As Christians we look at this answer and are genuinely moved at how much love and compassion was expressed by it. We are in awe of the standard that Jesus set.
Even more than 70 x 7
Sadly, we are missing the main point. The seventy times seven answer was only the warm-up statement – merely an introduction. The parable he spoke after those words was the main point. Unfortunately, not many of us can call that parable and its lessons to mind. Why? Because the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant was a harsh story that can be a little hard to understand. On the surface, it does not seem to easily fit in with the magnanimous lesson of forgiving seventy times seven.
Jesus spoke this parable to teach us about mercy. A basic definition for mercy is to give unmerited opportunity to another. It is kindness that opens a door to one who is undeserving. We don’t talk much about mercy. As a result, it seems to be a lesser-noticed sibling of forgiveness and grace. We frequently bask in the relief of being forgiven for our sins. We rejoice in the glory of being given grace - God’s unmerited favor. But without mercy, neither forgiveness or grace could be attainable. Without mercy there is no gospel and there is no coming kingdom! Mercy drives all of it!
Check out our March 23, 2020 podcast, “How Merciful Am I?” for more. We establish what God’s mercy is and how it is a template for the mercy we are supposed to live by. We explore why Jesus used this particular story as a teaching tool. One of the many gems of truth we uncover is this: forgiveness can never be complete without mercy as its basis. Has your ability to truly forgive others ever been challenged? You just might need a better understanding of mercy!
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