May 16, 2004
Read D & C 64: 9 – 10
Read 3 Nephi 13: 14-15
Within the Lord’s Prayer, we read, “Forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). How much do we need forgiveness? How often do we seek forgiveness? For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son.
Our Father in Heaven is a perfect being & cannot look on sin with the least allowance. We cannot return to Him unspotted & yet our greatest hope is to be able to live with Him again. So how do we do that, live with him again, when we sin everyday? We are natural man trying to learn to cast off that part of ourselves. Still, we are unclean; we are not perfect, except through the atonement of Jesus Christ. He atoned for our sins, that through proper repentance, we could be forgiven. However, how we are forgiven is largely dependant on ourselves. It is dependant upon how we forgive others. I want to read to you a story. It is a story from a book that is a fictionalized account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. I picked this story I’m about to read because it explains just how important it is to forgive everyone, absolutely everyone.
In the story, two people are speaking. One is Peter, a recent convert & follower/disciple of Christ and the other is a young man named Simeon. Simeon has many very good reasons for not forgiving people, particularly the Romans who have deeply hurt & wronged him and his family. This is Peter’s explanation of the parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:21-35.
Simeon starts, “Jesus talks of love & forgiveness, right?” “Yes”, answers Peter. Simeon says, “I heard him say that we were to love our enemies and forgive those who treat us spitefully. But that doesn’t seem to be the main message he has for people. Is that his main message?” “I don’t know if I would say that is his main message, but—“ Peter stopped, his brow furrowing. “For example, the other day I asked him about forgiveness. I, too, was a little troubled by what he had said. When he gave us the model of how we should pray (The Lord’s prayer), he said, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’ Well, I had been thinking about it. Knowing that he expects us to do more than the normal, I asked if we forgave someone seven times if that would be enough.” Simeon asked, “Seven? The law requires only three times, and that’s if they come asking for forgiveness.” Peter pulled a face. “I know. I thought I was being vastly generous. Do you know what he said?” Simeon shook his head. “He looked directly at me and said, ‘I say not unto you, until seven times, but until seventy times seven!” A stunned gasp exploded from Simeon’s mouth. Seventy times seven? His mind automatically did the calculations. “Four hundred and ninety times?” Peter shrugged. “That’s what he said. I think what he really meant was ‘Why are you counting?’ He then gave a parable. The more I’ve thought about it, it’s a really astonishing parable. He said that the kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who decided to take an accounting of his servants. When he had begun to reckon with them, he met with one who owed him ten thousand talents.” Simeon head came up sharply. “Ten thousand talents! For a workingman, one talent is a major fortune. A hundred talents would be beyond his wildest dreams. Peter went on. “It’s a staggering sum, isn’t it? Well, Jesus went on to say that when the servant did not have sufficient means to repay the debt—obviously! —The king commanded the servant to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.” Simeon sarcastically said, “Oh, that would help! What’s the price of a slave now? Thirty pieces of silver? Even if the man had a large family, that would barely be tiny dimple of what he owed.” Peter continued, “That makes what followed all the more astonishing. The servant fell down at the king’s feet and pleaded with him saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.’” A mischievous grin stole over the apostle’s face. “Do you have any idea how much patience the man is asking for?” He didn’t wait for Simeon to answer. “Even if he paid him back at the rate of one talent per week—an incredible sum—it would still take nearly two hundred years!” “This can’t be a true story,” Simeon said. “It’s more like a fable.” Peter answered, “Jesus never said it was true. He just said that the kingdom of heaven was like this story.” Eager to know more, Simeon pleaded, “So did the king agree to this fantastic proposal and give the man some time?” Peter shook his head. Simeon pounced on that. “I knew it.” “No,” Peter said, his voice soft with awe. “He forgave the man the debt. Took it off the books. Totally forgot the whole amount.” Simeon started. “Jesus said that?” Peter seemed pleased to see that Simeon was a little dazed by this too. He had been. The story had left him spinning. “But that’s not the end of the story. That same servant had one of his fellow servants (a co-worker) who owed him a debt as well. The co-worker owed him one hundred denarii.” Simeon remarked, “After ten thousand talents, that’s a mere pittance.” Peter went on without responding to that. “Well, this servant laid hands on the co-worker. He took the co-worker by the throat and demanded that he repay the debt. And this co-worker fell at the servant’s feet and besought him, saying…” he paused for effect, “’…Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.’” Simeon was transfixed. “The same words he had used with the king.” Peter said, “Exactly. But the servant would not listen. He had no mercy on him. He called for the officers and had his co-worker sent to prison until he paid the hundred denarii back.” Simeon blurted, “After the king forgave him of ten thousand talents?” “I was so angry by that point,” Peter said with a rueful smile. “I had forgotten that this was only a story. But Jesus went right on. The king called the servant back before him. ‘O thou, wicked servant! He said. Peter stopped again. “Isn’t it interesting? He didn’t call him a wicked servant when he owed him ten thousand talents. Only now does he use that term. ‘I forgave thee all that debt,’ the king said, ‘because you desired it of me. Should you not also have had compassion on your co-worker, even as I had pity on thee?’” “I would say so,” Simeon said, not realizing that he, like Peter, had become so caught up in the story that he was responding as though it were real. “And then came the lesson,” Peter concluded. “Jesus looked right at me then. ‘So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto his children,’ he said, ‘if they from their hearts forgive not every one his brother his trespasses.’” Peter seemed lost in his own thoughts. “I’ve thought a lot about that, wondering what he meant. Do you know that the one debt is six hundred thousand times larger than the other?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Do you realize that though a man could carry one hundred denarii in a pouch in one hand, a talent would be like half a large sack of grain? And it would take a column of men almost ten miles long to carry ten thousand talents!” “Then why?” Simeon asked. “Why is Jesus so fixed on forgiveness? What is he trying to teach us?” Peter was staring at the ground. He finally looked at Simeon. “How many times do you suppose a person sins in his life? I mean, if you count every thought, every act, every word that makes us less like God—which is a pretty good definition of sin, I suppose—how many times do you think we trespass against God? A thousand times, maybe?” Peter eyes narrowed. “Ten thousand times!” “Maybe more, in some cases,” Simeon whispered. Peter asked him, “If God is willing to take such debt upon him, forgive it without requiring full payment, then how can we go before him in the judgment and say, “But Lord, Micah hurt my feelings. Ezra wronged me when he stole my cattle. Baruch took my wife away?”
I really love this story. It explains to us in very simple terms what is expected of us in regards to forgiving our fellow man, our brothers and sisters. Because that is the level of forgiveness we’ve come to want and need and expect from Jesus Christ.
John Taylor explained it this way: “Treat one another aright. Have you sinned one against another? Then go and make restitution. Have you defrauded one another? Go and make it right. Have you spoken unkindly to your brother or sister? Then go and acknowledge your wrong and ask to be forgiven, promising to do better in the future. Let us treat one another with kindness and one another’s reputation with respect, and feel after one another’s welfare, treating everybody, as we would like God to treat us. And then, when we come to the Lord, we can say, ‘Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.’ Do you constantly think of that? We get down upon our knees and many of us think we are pretty decent fellows, but there is Brother So and So, he does not do exactly right, and I do not like him very much, and he has done me wrong, and I would like to have full retribution, but O God won’t you forgive my sins? I will, says the Lord, on condition that you forgive your brother, and only on that condition. “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23-24)
I know that this is a true principle. I know that I have done many wrongs and have not sought forgiveness for them. I intend to clear those things up for several reasons. It is a commandment & a requirement of me. I want there not to be any bad feelings against me for things I have caused. And finally, I want forgiveness, complete forgiveness, so that I can, through Christ’s infinite atonement, return to my Father in Heaven cleansed of my many sins and white and worthy. I say these things in the sacred and holy name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Redeemer and Teacher. Amen
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