Helpless...surrounded, and yet alone. As Peter asks the Savior concerning the limit of forgiveness, Jesus replies in Matthew 18 with the story of a man who was brought before his lord. He owed the maligned magistrate the equivalent of about 12.5 billion dollars. His sentence is passed, and the servant was now on the precipice of losing his wife and children to a life of slavery. Whatever else had been accumulated in his life would be sold to recoup some of the debt. In a last ditch effort, the servant appeals to the compassion of the lord, and begins pleading for more time.
Pause...from the perspective of the observer, we understand that this man cannot possibly repay that kind of debt. His debt couldn't be paid in a hundred lifetimes....and that was the point. Jesus is employing extreme exaggeration to paint a picture of one who was guilty of a debt that did not deserve forgiveness. However, as we seek to understand what happens when we refuse to reconcile, it behooves us to press further in the story.
Astonishingly, as the servant cries out his appeal, the lord, in a surprising move of compassion, bids him leave. Not as many of us would, but as a free man, forgiven and released from his debt. The man owed him billions, and he had no doubt made many foolish choices to accrue such a debt, and yet the compassionate lord releases him from the entirety of it. One would think this man would leave humbled and instructed. No doubt vowing, to himself, that he never would place himself in such a predicament again. As he merrily marched his way home, to express the good news to his family, he finds another servant who owed him the equivalent of about a hundred bucks. Surely, having just been forgiven of his overwhelming debt, the man would extend the joy to another. To "pay it forward", if you will. On the contrary, he roughs him up and demands repayment, ignoring the man's ironically familiar pleas for mercy. In shock, whispers begin to float about a servant forgiven of billions, exacting judgement of one who owed him a mere one hundred. The news reaches the magistrate who, in wrath, recalls the servant to his presence to then exercise his authority, and bind the man to the previous judgement, a life of enslavement and loss.
This same devastating dilemma plays out in the lives of believers around the world. We, too, owed a debt we could not pay as the result of sinful thoughts, words, and actions. As we learned last week, God has called us to mirror that forgiveness to others. To be reminded of all the times God has forgiven us, even for repeated transgressions. Time and again we failed Him, and yet time and again we see the truth of I John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Truly we have been forgiven much, and yet how often are we hesitant to pass that forgiveness on to those around us.
When we fail to forgive two things happen. First, we find ourselves enslaved in bitterness resulting in internal loss. Hebrews cautions us in chapter 12 verse 15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." Jesus instructed not only to forgive for the need of avoiding emotional, mental bondage, but also spiritual bondage. In His model prayer, Jesus mentions forgiveness, "and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." (Luke 11:4) Maybe the reason your walk with the Lord has lost its sweetness is because you are bound up in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness leeches from us the joy and peace of a life that only come from mirroring the commands and principles of the scriptures. This results in the second effect, external loss.
When we fail to forgive it begins to affect those that are around us. Family sees it first usually, but before you realize it, you cannot have an lengthy conversation with someone before you begin to rehash the transgression, and run the other person down. As if infecting the other party with your spores of bitterness will somehow alleviate you from the hurt of the perceived transgression. As the parasitic flora of bitterness spreads, it skews the picture of grace that God desires us to portray, and disintegrates the possibility of positively impacting others with the Gospel.
Are you hurting or broken by what another may or may not have done? Do you feel like, no matter what you feel could be done, forgiveness is an impossibility? Have you had a series of mock funerals, only to resurrect the past, plaguing the present? If so, maybe it's time to put an end to the process. To reach to Christ, and allow Him to extricate your heart and mind from the entrapping, gnarled roots of unforgiveness.
Matthew 18:21-35 KJV
 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.  Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.  But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.  And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.  So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.  Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:  Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.