We have heard so many times during our lives that if people apologise then forgiveness will flow. If people come on bended knee and are truly sorry promising not to ever do it again then that would be the end of the matter. It all sounds very justifiable.
In the context of Jesus teaching on unlimited forgiveness the story continues:
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. (Matthew 18 v 28-30)
That servant owed an unpayable amount which was cancelled. But he was owed a payable amount which he refused to cancel.
So what is needed for forgiveness?
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ This is not a quote from the verses we have just read of the 2nd servant who owed a payable amount, it is verse 26, from the servant who owed an unpayable amount. But the words are the same:
He fell to his knees.
He promised to recompense.
It is identical. So what is needed for forgiveness? It is not those 3 things, otherwise the 2nd servant would have been forgiven.
It must be a heart matter.
The unmerciful servant had received grace and forgiveness but he hadn’t truly received anything at all. He was simply living off the benefits.
There was no gratitude for being released from his debt. He had not truly understood his own salvation experience. There was within his heart an entitlement and coupled with pride he was carrying a deep sense of injustice especially when it came to his own experience.
When your heart has been captivated by grace shown to you then grace flows naturally. When your sins have been washed away in a complete salvation experience then you copy your Saviour in ‘saving’ others also. When pure loving mercy has shocked you to your senses then you understand that forgiveness is more powerful than repentance.