“So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.””Matthew 18:35
In this parable of the unforgiving servant, we find a challenging passage that strains our modern understanding of our relationship with our heavenly Father. Yeshua describes how the forgiveness we receive from the Father is contingent on the forgiveness we provide to others.
In the parable, after being forgiven of his debts to his master, the servant is brought back before the master because he was not showing the same kindness to someone who was indebted to him. While many somehow extrapolate this passage into eternal torment for nonbelievers, the overall message of this teaching is instead explaining how, due to his unjust treatment of others, the one who was previously forgiven became accountable for those things for which he had previously been forgiven.
If we take this parable at its face value, stripping away the thousands of years of doctrinal excess that have been built upon ideas of justification by faith and eternal salvation, we arrive at a place in which Yeshua is teaching his followers that they are always accountable for how they treat others. To be forgiven by God is not a carte blanch status to claim some sort of favored status and then treat others any way of their own choosing.
In the same way, we must remember that we are always accountable to God for how we treat others in every aspect of our daily lives. Believers are not exempt from consequence. This should be a sobering reminder: God wants us to be good people who represent him accurately and fairly. And by conscious forgiveness with others, that is, sincere forgiveness from the heart (v. 35), only then do we show what his forgiveness looks like to the world. In so doing, we thereby maintain the privilege of forgiveness with the Father.
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