The Forgiven Forgive | Matthew 18:21-35


Do you struggle with unforgiveness? For anyone who is in Christ, living in unforgiveness is nothing short of hypocrisy. But Jesus has provided forgiveness for each person’s insurmountable debt of sin. Therefore, God calls us to forgive one another as Christ forgave us. John Elmore unpacks The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

John ElmoreJul 16, 2023

In This Series (11)
Pray Through to God’s Breakthrough | Luke 18:1-8
John ElmoreAug 6, 2023
The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector | Luke 18:9-14
Blake HolmesJul 30, 2023
Don’t Waste Your Life | Matthew 25:14-30
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 23, 2023
The Forgiven Forgive | Matthew 18:21-35
John ElmoreJul 16, 2023
A Warning to Rule Followers | Luke 15:25-32
Timothy "TA" AteekJul 9, 2023
The Forgiving Father and His Two Lost Sons: The Prodigal Son | Luke 15:1-32
John ElmoreJul 2, 2023
Which Soil Are You? | Matthew 13:1-9
Marvin WalkerJun 25, 2023
The Path to Being Built Different | Matthew 7:24-27
Jermaine HarrisonJun 18, 2023
How to Get Into Heaven | Luke 10:25-37
Timothy "TA" AteekJun 11, 2023
Problems, Prayer, and Provision | Luke 11:5-8
John ElmoreJun 4, 2023
Your Best Summer with Jesus | Matthew 13:44-46
Timothy "TA" AteekMay 28, 2023


Jesus told this life-altering parable in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me?” The Unforgiving Servant shows us three important realities about forgiving others.

  • The forgiven forgive because all are debtors.
    • The debt that was owed was equal to three thousand lifetimes of work. It was an unthinkable amount (Matthew 18:24).
    • Jesus’ point: The debt was insurmountable. Our debt of sin before a holy God is impossibly huge (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23).
  • The forgiven forgive because Christ forgave them.
    • Every person has a choice. Our list of sins can either be upon Jesus or upon us. We can never work it off (Romans 6:23).
    • Christ nailed the list of our sins to the cross. There is no other way to deal with our insurmountable debt before God (Colossians 2:13-14).
  • Therefore, the forgiven forgive as God forgives.
    • The king in the parable asks, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33)
    • Each one of us is welcomed in the kingdom of heaven, but unforgiveness has no place here.
  • If we don’t forgive…
    • Pardon sin or be poisoned within.” The unforgiving servant was thrown into prison (Matthew 18:34). Carrying around unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
    • What you don’t forgive, you’re doomed to relive. Hypothetical hauntings chase us, while the other person is oblivious.
    • You might need to wrestle with the question, “Am I forgiven?” You might be saved but hindered in your fellowship with God (Matthew 18:35), or you might be doing religious activities without being saved.
  • So how do we forgive?
    • Let Jesus deal with their sin — either at the cross or on Judgement Day. If they are already a believer, Jesus has forgiven their sin. If they’re not a believer, plead for them to experience Christ’s forgiveness.
    • When you remember their sins, remember yours. Sometimes other people’s sins stick in our minds and hearts, so we must forgive, pray, and give it to the Lord daily, forgiving others as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12; Ephesians 4:32-5:1).
    • What about the horrific ones? These sins weigh on us, like chains that hinder our steps. Find the key at the cross. Even as He was being murdered, Jesus forgave his killers (Luke 23:34).
    • What if they keep sinning in the same way? Forgive, yes (Matthew 18:21-22), but forgiveness and trust are two different things. You can fully forgive while having diminished trust.
    • What if they never ask for forgiveness? We still forgive as Christ did: He forgave His killers even while He hung on the cross (Luke 23:34). They weren’t asking for it, but He was extending forgiveness.
    • What if I can’t forgive myself? You can’t forgive the sins that you yourself committed. Christ alone can offer it. His cross paid for all your sin.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • What are some ways — subtle and obvious — that you treat people whom you are struggling to forgive? Do you ghost them? Ignore/avoid them?
  • What has God forgiven you of? Be honest with yourself before Him. How does this shift your perspective?
  • Against whom do you harbor unforgiveness? What steps do you need to take in forgiving them?
  • As you remember your sin, take time to pray for those who have sinned against you. It might help to pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us” (Matthew 6:12).
  • Additional Scripture: Hebrews 9:27; James 2:13; Romans 12:19

John Elmore: Good morning, everyone. My name is John Elmore. I'm one of the teaching pastors here at Watermark Community Church. It's so good to be with you on Sundays. If you're visiting with us or exploring the faith, a special welcome and invitation to you. This morning, I want to start by doing something I just feel like doing. I just feel like it. Some of you are salivating because of your BC days. Others of you are like, "You look like you've done that before." I used to smoke when I drank, which, unfortunately, was daily. Huh. That used to just slip out. I guess they changed the packaging.

Male: Don't do it!

John: I'm not going to, because I did at The Porch and I got some emails. I'm teachable. I was like, "All right. That's fair." The feeling you just had of, "You can't do that in church…" And I don't mean the body. Like, the building, the body of Christ. "You can't do that here. That has no place here."

I might be like, "Yeah, but I feel like it," and you would say, "It doesn't matter what you feel like. You can get addicted to that, and your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. By the way, it's cancerous, not just to you; it's going to be cancerous to others. I don't want that. I don't want your secondhand smoke. I don't want to stink like that." I might say, "Okay. Well, I'll stand back, and I'll blow it backward." You'd be like, "Dude, then when I talk to you next, you're going to reek. There's going to be a stench about you."

Despite all of those factors, the feeling you had… I want you to think about the feeling and the "Don't do it," the, "You can't do that here. You can do that somewhere else, but you don't do that in church." There is something far more appalling, far more cancerous, exponentially worse than smoking in church that I think every single one of us, in some regard (myself included), walked into church today with that is more cancerous, more appalling, more offensive, and more destructive; it's unforgiveness.

The feeling of, "You can't smoke in here…" Well, how much more would the forgiven people of God come into church with unforgiveness? That's the height of hypocrisy. The only thing that drew us unto Jesus was the need for forgiveness. "I've got sin. You say that you forgive; therefore, I'm here. I'm coming to you, Jesus." That's why I'm in church. My very presence in this place is a pleading and an acceptance of the forgiveness of sins, and I'm not going to forgive that other person. It's the height of hypocrisy. It is so appalling.

You think you can't smoke in here, the "Don't do it," yet all of us, in some way or another, have unforgiveness in our hearts toward other people. Everybody. Like, right now. Think about it. It's the person you ghost. They text you, and you're like, "I'm not writing you back." The person you dread seeing at the holidays. The person that if you walk down an aisle in a grocery store and see them, you're like, "Oh, I forgot something on aisle 3."

You have no desire to see them, want to be with them, or whatever, or you're there with them, and you smile and fake it, and inside your heart you're like, "I hate you. How dare you not come to me? How shocking what you did to me, and you know you did it, that you would come here and ask, 'How's your summer been?'" We have unforgiveness in our hearts when we're the forgiven ones. Forgiven people forgive people. It's the essence of what we have received from Christ, and then we are conduits of that forgiveness to the world.

Here's the reason: because we know that all are debtors. The outline we're going to walk through today in this Parable series is the forgiven forgive because all are debtors. We realize, "Man, I'm a debtor. You're a debtor. I've been forgiven, so I forgive." The forgiven forgive because Christ has forgiven us. That's why. We realize we're debtors and Christ forgave us at the cross. Then the forgiven forgive as God forgives, in the same manner.

We know we were debtors. We know Christ has forgiven us at the cross; therefore, we forgive others as God, in Christ, forgave us. That is the manner by which… So, that's what we're going to do as we walk through this Parable series today. We're going to be in Matthew, chapter 18. You may be familiar with the passage.

In Matthew 18, you have a conflict within the body of Christ. Jesus says, "Hey, if your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault. If he doesn't hear you, then take two or three others." Not like, "Aha! Got you!" hall monitor but, like, "Okay. I'm going to bring others in your sphere of influence who will say, 'Yeah, we agree; there was sin here,'" and hope to win them over.

Then it goes on, and Peter has a question. He's like, "Hey, Lord. How many times should I forgive my brother?" Rabbinic law was, "You forgive them three times. On the fourth time, dude, they're dead to you." You know, "Three strikes, you're out." So, Peter goes, "Hey, how about seven times, Lord?" He's looking for an "attaboy." Like, "I'm going times two plus one. Not three times, as the rabbis say of the teaching of the day, but I'm going to go, 'Hey, how about seven?'"

Jesus is like, "No. You don't get an 'attaboy.' You actually get some addition. I'm talking 70 times 7," which was an explanation for infinite. "You don't stop. Every time they sin you forgive them." Then he says, "Let me tell you a story, Peter. I'm going to tell you a parable to explain how this works and why, no matter what they do or how many times they do it, your response is to forgive as you have been forgiven."

This is where we are. This parable is a life-altering parable. This is no commonplace Sunday. No Sunday is. I want to call your attention to the fact that I think every single person in this room is doing something they shouldn't, like smoking in church, and it should grip us and be like, "How could I? How could I? I mustn't." So, I'm going to be in Matthew, chapter 18, verses 23-35. I'm reading from the ESV. This is after Peter asks, "How many times do I forgive?"

"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king…" They're literally hearing this from the King of Kings. "…who wished to settle accounts with his servants." Now, he's going to go into a monetary explanation, but I want you to remember who's talking. This is Jesus talking to debtors, to sinners, and this settling of accounts is a judgment day. "When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents." That doesn't mean much to us in this day and age, the ancient Near East monetary system, but it will later.

"And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold…" He couldn't pay. There was no ability to pay. "…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.'" I was like, "No, you're not going to be able to." "And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt." He's just forgiven. He doesn't even need to pay it back anymore. Just forgiven. "You're released. I forgive you 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…" He says the exact same phrase. "'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…" There are other servants who are watching all of this unfold.

"…they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master [the king] 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?'"

That's a key part of the verse, verse 33. "And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt." Here's the summation of the parable: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." So, the first part of our outline here…

  1. The forgiven forgive because all are debtors. It says in Matthew 18:24, "When he began to settle [the accounts] , one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents." That doesn't mean much. We don't talk about talents these days. Let me tell you what a talent is. A talent is a weight of gold, an incredible amount of gold…one talent.

One talent would have taken you 20 years of your life to earn. Twenty years for one talent. That means in the average lifetime, if you spent nothing, if you only earned and didn't spend anything, you could earn three talents. Three talents of gold was all you could earn with one singular lifetime. This brother had 10,000 talents that he was indebted to the master. To do the math for you, that's 3,333 lifetimes of work, not spending a cent, that he owed to the master.

Now, the original audience who heard, when he said, "Ten thousand talents of gold," would have been like, "That's an impossible amount. That's over 3,000 lifetimes of work. That's an impossible amount." Jesus would have been like, "Exactly. That's my point." The debt of sin… Because you know by the end of the parable he's not talking about money; he's talking about sin. This debt of sin is an impossible amount that you will never be able to repay. The forgiven forgive because all are debtors. We are in this debt.

Now, also, the original hearers would have thought, "Three thousand three hundred thirty-three lifetimes to pay that amount back. That's a lot of lifetimes of work," and they would have known from Matthew's gospel, even, from Adam to Jesus was 76 generations. Just 76. So, this is incomprehensible, unthinkable, this amount that was owed. And all are debtors.

It says in Romans 3:23, "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" Every single person has sin. They don't have a Savior, perhaps, but all have sin. Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death…" Another monetary term. What we have coming to us because of our sin is death, and we are impossibly in debt. So, I want to show this today. It's a list of some of my sins. You might be like, "Man, I'm glad I'm not onstage with a list of my sins."

I tried to think about this. The first one… My parents are listening from Missouri. I remember this. I was like, "What is the first sin I committed?" I'm sure there were many, but this is the first one I remember. I stole my mom's mascara and drew all over our front patio. I don't have a category for that. If I found my 5-year-old drawing with mascara on our house, I'd be so mad. Then she caught me, and I lied to her.

"Stole neighbor's toy and gum." You might be like, "Man, get a real struggle." Just wait. "Watched a bad movie and lied about it." It had nudity in it. "Stole money from my parents and from my grandmother. Lied to my friends because I was insecure. Lied and physically hurt a friend. Smoking in junior high." I started really lying to my parents in junior high about where I was and what I was doing. I started smoking then.

"Pornography and lust. Drinking alcohol in junior high. Pride and insecurity. Strip club in Mexico. Drunk four to seven nights a week in college. Inappropriate relationships. Lying at work. Lying to the police. Breaking and entering. Mocking God and other Christians." I mean, this could go on and on and, frankly, does. It's a really long list of my sin. And it doesn't just stretch across the stage. This would go around the world a couple of times.

I'm sure God is like, "Brother, you haven't scratched the surface. Mascara on the patio? Breaking and entering even? How about the innumerable wicked thoughts you have had in your heart and mind?" So, that's my sin. The forgiven forgive because all are debtors. I have my list of sin there that is so innumerable, but the second thing…

  1. The forgiven forgive because Christ forgave them. So, the forgiven forgive because all are debtors, but it says, "…because Christ forgave them." Here's the deal. This is the choice for every single person in this room who will ever hear this message. You have your list of sin. I have mine. Supernaturally speaking, there is a list. This is not some illustration. There is a list of sin…it's called a decree…hat stands against you.

You have your list of sin. Again, remember, we're talking about unforgiveness. So, you have yours, and you have a choice. Every single person has a singular choice. It says in Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed for man to die once and then face judgment," to spend eternity in heaven or hell. The only thing that will determine where you spend eternity, heaven or hell, is who's holding the list.

You see, the list will either… You will walk into heaven. You will live, sin, die, and stand before God in judgment, and you may have the list or that list will be upon Jesus at the cross. Those are the only two options. You walk into eternity and stand before God, and he says, "What have you done with your life?" He has this decree of sin against you, and at that point, your fate is sealed and there's no alternative, or you go to Christ's cross.

Listen to this. This is Colossians 2:13-14. It's one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh…" That means you were dead in sin, not yet born again. It says, "…God made alive together with him…" Him being Jesus. "…having forgiven us all our trespasses…"

Listen to the monetary language here. "…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands." There's a legal demand. You're indebted to a king. At judgment day, he is settling accounts, and you have a legal decree that is indebtedness that stands opposed to you. It stands against you with its legal demands. "This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

So, right now, you need to realize and think, "Is my sin still upon me or has it been nailed to the cross? Am I going to walk into eternity with my sin and my list unto judgment or have I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins?" Mine no longer define me. They're not upon me. They're upon Jesus. That's the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. He's no longer on the cross. He has been raised from the dead to show that he was fully God and fully man. He overcame sin, death, and Satan.

The forgiven forgive. Here in church, the body of Christ, the forgiven forgive freely because they know, "Everyone is a debtor. I sin. They sin. They sin against me. They sin against God. I have been forgiven. Christ has forgiven me. All of my debt has been nailed to the cross. So, how could I not forgive as I have been forgiven?" Forgiven people forgive people. So, the forgiven forgive because all are debtors. The forgiven forgive because Christ forgave them. Now we're going to spend the most time on this third point.

  1. The forgiven forgive as [in the same manner as] God forgives. That's verse 33 in this parable. Jesus says, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as…as…I had on you?" He's like, "I forgave 3,000 lifetimes of debt, and now you're not forgiving your fellow servant?" By the way, the fellow servant owed him three months of work. Three months. Three thousand lifetimes compared to three months. I think it's a really good picture of this.

Here's a lifetime of my sin…again, it could wrap around the world three times, probably…that huge list, yet I'm going to take one of these and be like, "Yeah, but you lied to me, so I'm not going to forgive you of that one. I know my list is long, but this one really hurt." Jesus, in verse 33, is like, "Should not you have forgiven…? I forgave you your 3,000 lifetimes of work of debt, and now three months' pay? Really? Think about your sin, the debt I have forgiven, before you hold this debt against another."

I thought recently… My family and I traveled. We took a little summer vacation on a cruise. It's a cheap way to travel. I don't recommend it to anyone. It was like fraternity 2.0. Different story. Nonetheless, we get to Mexico. We sailed from Galveston to Mexico. Sailed, cruised…I don't even know what. We remained sober when everyone else didn't. Thank God.

We get to Mexico, and we get out. We have our little day packs or whatever. There's a dog waiting to greet us. We're there on the little pier, and we're walking. There are two people, and they have a little dog. Penny is like, "Look! A doggy!" I'm like, "Well, that's a drug-sniffing, gun-sniffing, bomb-sniffing dog." She's wanting to go and be like, "Hey, Skittles!" and it's snarling.

So, you just hold your bag up to the dog. They're like, "Take off your bag and hold it to the dog." So, I have my backpack. I hold it to the dog. Penny has her little thing. They're like, "Don't touch the dog." The reason that dog is there is there are certain things that are not allowed in the country. They're like, "You're welcome here, but if you're bringing in guns, drugs, or bombs, those things aren't welcome here. You are, but those things are not."

In the same way, God is like, "You are welcome into the kingdom of heaven…" That is how this parable started. "…because your debt has been forgiven at the cross, but there's something that's not welcome here. There is a custom where you drop that unforgiveness. That's not welcome here. We don't have that in the kingdom of heaven. You need to forgive as you have been forgiven."

So, we're going to run a little screen here every single day, that you would drop unforgiveness before you walk into the kingdom of God on a daily basis. If you realize you have that in your heart, like, "It has no place here. I can't take that into the kingdom of God." So, I want to ask a few questions before we say how we forgive. I want to ask a few questions like, "But what if we don't?" Like, what if we don't?

What if, like the smoking, it's like, "But I feel like it because of what they've done to me"? Well, here's a phrase. If you do not pardon their sin, you will be poisoned within. If you do not pardon their sin, you (not them) will be poisoned within. It has been said about unforgiveness that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. You're the one who's suffering as you harbor unforgiveness toward them. It's wrecking and destroying you.

Hebrews 12 says it's a root of bitterness that grows up and defiles many…you, primarily, and then secondarily, just like secondhand smoke… Like, "Oh, I don't know what it is about you, but man! You spiritually reek. You're embittered in soul. What is it? It's so hard to be with you." You've been poisoned within because you didn't pardon their sin.

Here's another one. Well, you see it, actually. Let me go back to the parable. He says he found his servant, seized him, or grabbed him, and began to choke him. He's shown mercy, and then all of a sudden… Just like at the cross, he's shown mercy, and then when he finds this other servant, he's assaulting him, treating him horribly, because he had been poisoned within. He had been forgiven of all his sin, and now he's like, "Oh, and you! And you!" He's acting crazy and assaulting this guy, this fellow servant, because his unforgiveness… He had not pardoned sin, and it had poisoned him within his reaction.

Another one would be what you don't forgive you are doomed to relive. What you don't forgive you…not them…are doomed to relive in your mind. You know this. I don't have to tell you. You have these hypothetical hauntings where you think, like, "Oh, when I see them, they're going to say this, and then I'm going to say that. And they're going to say this, and I'm going to say that. This is how I'm going to treat them, and they're going to know… Like, 'Man, why haven't I heard from that person?' They're going to know. I'm going to show them. And when I see them at this thing…"

You have these hypothetical hauntings that are wrecking you. You're reliving it because you haven't forgiven it. What you do not forgive you are doomed to relive. You're the one still carrying all that. They're not. They're maybe oblivious to the fact that they've even hurt you, but because of your unforgiveness, just like the servant in this passage… He has been forgiven, and now he's on the hunt. Like, "Who owes me? Who is indebted to me?" He's reliving it instead of being like, "Oh, I'm forgiven. I forgive everybody. I'm walking free." He's reliving it.

In Romans 12 it says, "Do not take revenge, my brothers, for it is the Lord's to avenge." You entrust that to him. But here's worst of all, worse than being poisoned within, worse than being doomed to relive the sin. Worst of all, it says if you aren't forgiving, you must wrestle with "Then am I?" If you don't forgive others, in this parable you must wrestle with "Then am I even forgiven?" Jesus says it at the end here. In verse 35, he says, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother [or sister] from your heart."

It says he won't forgive the debt. Now, that can start to sound like works-based salvation. Like, "Wait, wait, wait. So, I can trust in Jesus for my sins, but if I don't forgive people, then God doesn't forgive me?" This is not salvific. There are two things at play here, possibly. First, Luther said that daily confession of sin to God was his daily baptism. See, it says nothing can separate you from the love of the Father. That's Romans, chapter 8. Nothing, including unforgiveness toward a fellow servant, fellow brother and sister in Christ.

So, what does it mean that it says, "Your Father won't forgive you if you don't forgive them from your heart"? It means not that the relationship is broken. If you are in Christ, nothing, nothing, can break your relationship with God, yet unforgiveness, harboring unforgiveness in your heart, can hinder fellowship with God. He says in Isaiah 59, "I have not heard your prayers. I do not hear your prayers because you've cherished sin in your heart." There's a hindering of fellowship. It doesn't break the relationship. Nothing can. But it can hinder fellowship.

If one of my sons mistreats my daughter and doesn't address it and comes and is like, "Hey, let's go get ice cream," I'm like, "No. You're still my son, but we're not going to go act… There's something hindering our fellowship because of how you're treating your sibling. That needs to be reconciled. There's nothing broken. You're not going to 'un-son' or 'un-daughter' yourself because of what you've done, but there is something hindering our fellowship."

Then, secondly, when it says if you're not forgiving… Which, again, is the height of hypocrisy for a Christian. To be forgiven and not forgive? It's crazy. Yet we're all tempted into it and wrestle with it. The second thing you should wrestle with if you're like, "I'm not a forgiving person" is you need to consider if you are forgiven salvifically.

There's a phrase that says, "I'm spiritual but not religious." People say that all the time right now in this postmodern age. "I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious." I want to ask today, in the hearing of the church… Maybe you're religious but not spiritual. Maybe that unforgiveness is an indicator of, "I go to church. I read my Bible. I pay tithes," and you're religious but not spiritual.

You haven't been born again. You don't realize that all of your sin has been nailed to the cross. You just have been going through these motions; therefore, there hasn't been a heart change. So, perhaps, for some today, it's the realization of, "Man! I am getting killed by unforgiveness. It's destroying me inside, and I do need to take my sin to Jesus to be forgiven."

So, how do we forgive? Here's the application. These small pieces of paper compared to my huge one… What you do… I learned this from Nate Graybill, who is the author of re:generation, the curriculum, our biblically based, Christ-centered 12-step program. He's the one, actually, who first showed me that smoking illustration, except he actually smoked onstage, so send him an email.

Step 8, if you go to A.A. or something, is not actually explicitly one of the 12 steps, but he wrote it into the 12 steps as, like, "You have to. You can't walk through life with unforgiveness," because all have sin. All are debtors. Christ forgives us at the cross; therefore, we forgive as God forgave us, which is the third point.

So, you look at this huge piece of paper. It's like, "Then how could I hold this against my fellow brother or sister?" The answer is that you take it to Jesus. You take it to Christ. You're like, "You dealt with my sin. Deal with theirs." That's where it says, "I'm not going to take revenge. It's yours to avenge." You might say, "Well, if they're a believer, my sin has been nailed to the cross, and if they've trusted in Jesus, their sin has been nailed to the cross, including this sin they committed against me."

So, they committed against me, and I'm like, "All right. Well, my sin is nailed to the cross. They've trusted in Jesus. Their sin is nailed to the cross. Who am I to go to the cross and be like, 'Well, I know Jesus has forgiven you, but I won't'?" In this parable he's like, "Hey, should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" It's like, "Oh, yeah, yeah." So, when you remember their sin, you remember your sin, which leads you back to Jesus. You're like, "Hey, you dealt with mine. You deal with theirs."

You may be thinking, "Yeah, but they're not a believer. This person is wicked and evil." Well, it still belongs at the cross. When you think about the sin they committed against you, if they're an unbeliever, you're still like, "Okay. Well, Jesus, you get that one too." "But they haven't trusted in Jesus. It hasn't been nailed to the cross. So why am I giving it to Jesus?" Because he will deal with it at judgment day.

They will stand before God with their list of sins, yours included, the one they committed against you. They will stand before God, and there will be justice. It will be hell forevermore. That should compel you and propel you to plead to God on their behalf. "Lord, save their soul." One of the people who has hurt me most greatly in my life, who I don't believe is a believer…well, at least as far as I knew back then is not a believer. I still plead with God for their salvation, because the thought of them spending eternity in hell is haunting.

It's not like, "Good! Burn in hell! I'm trusting this one to Jesus. You'll meet him one day, and when you do…" Instead, it's like, "Oh my goodness." Jesus says, "Love, pray, and bless your enemies." I sent the person a baby shower gift once after what they did, because I'm like, "All right. Well, Jesus says we're to pray, love, and bless." So, you lay it at the cross.

You may be like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get that, but what about the really…" There are some that are hard, and it's like, "All right. I understand the principle. They lied to me. They bullied me in junior high. They betrayed me. They cheated on me. Okay, I get it. Take it to the cross." I know that you know… I know at least, where I'm like, "Lord, I forgive them," and then I wake up the next day, having taken it to the cross, and it's like a cat with a… I'm like, "What in the world? Lord, I said I forgive them. Please. Please."

So, you go back to the cross every single day until that thing sticks. I believe it's what Jesus instructs us to do in the Lord's Prayer where he says, "Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us of our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." It's like, "Well, how often are we supposed to say that?" He's like, "I said 'daily bread.' You're getting indebted against, just as you indebted to me with your sin. It's going to happen on the daily."

So, how often do you do it? Every single day until that thing sticks and is not on your mind anymore, because sin is sticky, especially some of the really, really hard stuff. You keep going to the cross every single day until he takes it away. Today is Laura's and my 12-year anniversary, so it feels fitting to tell you a little about her. Sometime I'm going to have to have her come up here so you can actually meet her. You're like, "Is she real? Is she your girlfriend in Canada? Where is she?"

Whenever the kids sin against her and go and ask her forgiveness, "Mom, will you please forgive me for [whatever they did]?" her response is automatic. I can hear it in my mind. She's like, "Of course. Of course, Judd. I forgive you just as Jesus forgives Mommy for all of my sin." She says it on repeat. She is doing what this parable says. She is taking herself back to the cross where all of her sin was forgiven, and she's forgiving as God in Christ forgave her.

She's reminding them, "How could I not? Jesus has forgiven me of all my sin. How could I not forgive you?" At the same time, she's remembering her sin, which allows her to forgive theirs. If you're remembering their sin, the really sticky one, you just remember yours. If you're remembering their sin, if it's coming back up either by your mind…you're reliving that…or Satan is bringing it to your mind to try to separate us (it says in 2 Corinthians we're not unaware of his schemes), then you just keep remembering yours and take it back to the cross.

I was telling Laura about this message, actually, and she was like, "I get it. I understand the principle, but what about…? There's just some sin that is a little more than a Post-it note, John." I was like, "Oh, you're right." So, for that, I want to have someone do something to me. This is Alex Hockett. He runs everything on Sunday. Amazing guy. You should give him a round of applause.

There are some things that you're like, "I didn't do anything to deserve that." Maybe you lived for a decade in sexual abuse at the hand of a stepparent or a family member, and you're like, "I had no part in that. That was done to me. When you say there's a Post-it note about that sin, that's insulting. That minimizes and diminishes the pain I have experienced." Maybe it was a rape. Maybe it was physical assault. I don't know what. I can't think of all of the ones.

But when I say "Post-it note," you're like, "You have no idea, because the sin that was committed against me is a weight. It is a weight upon me. I limp through life because of what was done to me. It's no Post-it note. This has affected me. It causes me to limp in life." I see tears in the audience right now. You know what I'm talking about. And you've tried, like, "O Lord, I forgive it. I want to be done with it," and there it remains. No matter where you go, no matter what you pray, it remains like a weight upon you.

I know it's completely different than some Post-it note, but the answer is the same. As you limp through life and are carrying that weight and pain, that you would go to the cross, and there you find the key, the key to release the weight, the pain, the hurt, the time, the loss, the anger, the resentment, the rage, the hatred, the bitterness, because the key to forgiveness is found at the cross of Jesus Christ.

So, you can take whatever that weight is and leave it at the cross and be done with it, because we forgive as God has forgiven us. The forgiven forgive as God has forgiven us. This is found in Ephesians 4:32-5:1: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." We're to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us and that we just imitate God. God is like, "Just do what I do."

But here's the thing. You're not going to be able to do that in your own strength. You need him. Especially you might think about some of the situations where you're like, "Yeah, but they keep doing it. I've forgiven them, but they keep doing it." Well, forgiveness doesn't equal trust. So, if there's not repentance, it's really hard to become trusting. Forgiveness does not equal trust. Let me put it to you this way.

If someone asked to borrow my car and they wrecked it, I'd be like, "It's okay. I have insurance. Accidents happen." They borrow it again. They wreck it again. They borrow it again. They wreck it again. They come to me a fourth time, like, "Can I borrow your car?" I'm like, "You're not going to borrow my car." Here's what they will say to you. They'll literally say, "You said you forgave me! You didn't forgive me."

"No. I forgive you. I forgive you as I've been forgiven in Jesus, but trust has been diminished. There's a loss of trust. It's not broken entirely. We're still in relationship, but I don't trust you with that thing right now" or maybe in dating right now or with my investment right now or whatever it may be. "I forgive you, but trust has been diminished."

Then it's, "What if they never ask?" They never ask. They never recognize, "Oh, yeah. I did that to you." You may go to them, like Matthew 18 says, and say, "Hey, I'm your brother showing you your fault," and they're like, "I didn't do that. I didn't say that. That's what you think. Well, you did this." What if they never ask your forgiveness? You still forgive as God in Christ forgave you. Otherwise, you're going to carry it around the rest of your life.

How do we know this? We know this not because it's what we should do; it's what he did do. As he is on the cross, he says, "Father, forgive them." They're murdering him in real time. They're not asking for his forgiveness. They're mocking him, and he says, "Father, forgive them." He's entrusting justice to God. "I'm not going to be after justice. I have come to lay down my life." So, the forgiven forgive because all are debtors, the forgiven forgive because Christ has forgiven us, and the forgiven forgive as God forgives.

You remember my smoking. I was addicted to cigarettes from 18 to 30. That was more than a decade of being addicted. I remember Jesus saved me at the age of 30 and set me free from alcohol. It was actually harder to quit tobacco than drinking in some senses. It was so hard. But I began to realize what I said at the beginning. "My body is a temple. My money is not mine. My body is not mine, so I give you my life. Will you set me free?"

Every single day, I was just asking him to set me free. I want to say the same thing to you today. If you're wrestling with that unforgiveness and a really sticky sin or a really heavy one, don't do it on your own strength. Ask God to help you, and he will. You can't, but he can. You don't have the power. He has all power. Let's pray.

Father, first let me thank you that you have forgiven us of all of our debt. How could we not now forgive others of the debts against us? You've given us our daily bread, and I ask that you would forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lord, I ask by the power of the Holy Spirit that you would bring people to mind right now, specific people, and that we would forgive them from our hearts as you instruct. From our hearts. Not with lip service but from our hearts. If it continues to stick, I pray we'd continue to take it to the cross daily. For some that are really weighty, I pray, Lord, they would find the key at the cross. Jesus, our Savior, even as he was being crucified, was forgiving.

Take a moment to pray and release the debts that have been committed against you because you've been forgiven.

Lord, as I hear that rain outside, and I know everybody is about to get wet as they walk to their cars, I think about Luther saying confession was his daily baptism. Lord, even as we are covered physically with this water, supernaturally right now, as we go to you, as hard as it may be to say, "I forgive them as I have been forgiven," wash it away.

Wash it away from our hearts and minds. As those waterdrops hit us, remind us that the blood of Christ washed us of all of our sins, and keep washing it. Keep washing until it's no longer sticky, because we must show mercy as you have had mercy on us. As a result, we now stand and sing to the one who paid our debt. Amen.