I am in debt... but let's back up 6 years
It was a normal day of Sunday School at church. I walked in gossiping with my best friends and, being the spunky 12 year old that I was, was an expert at it. It was in the days of simply ostracizing someone who insulted me or my friends. To be honest, looking back, I sincerely feel apologetic to the girls we spoke poorly about or let ourselves become so offended to the point of "casting" another out from our circle, because 100% of the time we were clearly reflecting qualities we didn't like about ourselves onto them, and we were normally wrong about them as well. This happened quite frequently, because as you can imagine in junior high, we got offended quickly and forgave slowly.
It's no doubt that because we were walking into class gossiping we were asking for it: The lesson on forgiveness and loving thy neighbor. Retrospectively, I wonder if my teacher picked the lesson because she was inspired or because of our rude behavior (or both), but like I said we were asking for it. It was the first time I heard the story from Matthew 18 about the unmerciful servant, and that was one of the days that changed my life forever.
My teacher briefly explained: A man owes the king a large amount of money and begs the king for more time to work to pay off the debt. Not only does the king grant his wish, but he also forgives him for the money he owes. In essence, the man is let off clean, with no debt to his name. Later, the same man seeks out a man who owes him a small amount of money and when the man asks him for forgiveness and time, he refuses his wish. I remember thinking, well what a dumb man, you just got let off free and you can't even do the same for others! My teacher said,
"When you cast out others because of something they said to you that offended you, or something they did that hurt you, you are the man in this story. Jesus paid the price for every single sin you would ever commit and suffered tremendously for you, but he forgives you every single time you repent. If we can't let others off with little offenses, how can we expect Christ to feel good about letting us off the big ones?"
NOW BACK TO TODAY
I have referred to this story multiple times in my mind when struggling to forgive someone who has hurt me. I love this parable because I think it's perfectly fitting for our times when someone hurts us. But... I never knew a lesson that really hit me that I learned this week in my New Testament class.
Our teacher gave us rough estimates to how much money the debt would be in our currency:
(v. 24) The man owes the king 10,000 talents :
10,000 talents=$15,132,000,000 roughly today
Lesson #1:God knows we can't ever pay back our debt from what Christ did for us, but forgives us when we repent
Back in the context of the story: 10,000 talents would equal about 150,000 years of annual salary from the man. I never realized this, but it was literally impossible for this man to ever pay the king back his debts. His situation was literally hopeless, yet he begged and promised to pay it all back. Did you ever notice the miracle in this story? The king lets go all of his debt. He lets go every ounce. As I pondered this in class I thought, the king knew there was no way this man could ever keep his promise of paying him back, but got rid of his debt and gave him a second chance. Our Heavenly King wants us to use the atonement because we show appreciation for it, not because we are paying a debt. Heavenly Father knows we can never pay him back for what Christ did, but every time we turn our hearts to him begging for another chance He gives it to us and we become clean and new.
(v. 28) Another man, owes this man 100 pence
Lesson #2: It Is The Same Money
My teacher taught us, "How do you think the first man got into debt? He probably took that money and started loaning it out to people, like the second man. So if you think about it, when the king let go of his debt, the second man's debt should have been gone as well because it came from the king."
I pondered this and concluded that everyone is using the same atonement to change, to grow, to learn. When I choose not to forgive someone, I am basically saying that they are not worthy of forgiveness. I am, in a way, limiting the atonement and the way it can change anyone. I am saying, "there is no way the atonement could really change her, she is way too far gone and doesn't deserve forgiveness for what she has done". I never truly thought of it that way. This is all the same money. It would make sense then, why the king would be angry at the first man when he found out the way he treated the later. The King wants us all to use the atonement, and he wants us all to see it as being able to change anyone. Who are we to say someone has done something too unspeakable to change? The funny thing is, Christ is the only one who truly felt the full pain for what they did, and he is the one that forgives and changes them completely.
These little details really teach me about forgiveness and love, and most important how much God really does forgive me. He forgives me an impossible debt, with love and hope and confidence that I will use Christ's atonement to change.
I know that I will encounter people on my mission who will say harsh things, or act meanly, at my calling as a missionary. This has taught me to have absolute love for these people and forgive freely. Christ has changed me, even though I'll never pay him back. I know that He truly does have the ability to change anyone who turns to Him, and if we do, our debt will be lifted and we will get an infinite number of chances.