Episode 375 – Let Go of the Past

As we learn in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18.23-35), God’s first position is to forgive the debt of our sin. We owe Him so much that we could never live long enough to repay Him. He still forgives, but there is a catch. He will only forgive us if we forgive others first. That’s right. If we refuse to forgive others, He will refuse to forgive us. If you want to be forgiven, if you want to be in heaven, you must first let go of the past and forgive others.

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My brothers and sisters, we just heard in this morning’s gospel, this gospel about forgiveness, such an important commandment from God, that we must forgive other people. Now, in the story Christ gives this comparison, He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like.” This is God’s way of preparing us for exactly what is going to take place at the judgment. He doesn’t say, “Maybe I’m going to do this, maybe I’m not going to do this,” He says, The kingdom of heaven is like.” We know that when Christ begins His stories with these words, our ears should perk up and our minds should pay attention and our hearts should open, because Christ is giving us a complete preparation for our own judgment. He says, “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” That’s the judgment, God is going to settle accounts with us.

And in the example that Christ gives, the first servant that comes to God owes so much, so much that he could never possibly, in his lifetime, pay back the debt. Doesn’t matter how long he lived, he would never have had enough money to pay back the master. And it says that he ordered him to be sold and this and that, and the man begged God, “Just give me a little time, just be patient with me.” And it says here in the gospel, “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt.” Didn’t give him just more time, but totally eliminated what the man owed. And this is the first part of how our judgment is going to go. We, today, owe so much to God, we could never possibly pay Him back. It doesn’t matter how long we live, it doesn’t matter how good we live, it doesn’t matter what we do, we could never live to pay God back what we owe Him. And so what do we do?

Κύριε Ελέησον And we come and we kneel in front of the altar, we kneel in front of our icons, and we beg God for mercy. And God is willing to forgive everything we owe. There is absolutely nothing we could ever do that God is not willing to forgive if we ask Him. That’s the first part, and a very important part of this morning’s gospel. But the second part is much more challenging. You see, we like to go through life just hearing the first part of the gospel, that God has forgiven us, God is going to forgive us. Doesn’t matter what we’ve done, God forgives. Δώξα τω Θεώ praise the Lord. We can do whatever we want, God is going to forgive us. We like to leave the story right there, but the story continues.

This man whom God had forgiven everything immediately walked out the doors. Not a moment later, that he takes some guy by the throat who owed him just a little thing, and the guy begs him, “Just give me a little bit of time.” “No,” and he threw him in jail. My brothers and sisters, that is how we tend to live every day. We come into the church, we beg for God’s forgiveness, we even come to the sacrament of confession and everything is forgiven. And then what do we do? Not a moment later, we are refusing to forgive other people that have done or said something to us. In that split moment, we’ve lost it all. Because in the story, when the master finds out what the servant does, he says, “You, I forgave you everything,” he says, “you couldn’t have just a little bit of compassion?” He sends him off to prison, and it says until the debt could be paid. But we know the debt could never have been paid.

So he was being sent to eternal torment, simply because he could not find it in his heart to forgive someone who owed him just a little something. That is where we stand in life. I know it because I hear it all the time, Ναι Πάτερ. Αλά Αυτός είπε. Αυτός έκανε And we’re constantly remembering all the little teeny things that someone said or did to us, as if we are the master, as if somehow we are keeping a logbook, “Here’s Thanasi’s page, well, here’s 10 pages for Thanasi, And Christ says that just as we forgive, if we refuse to forgive, our Father will also refuse to forgive us. That is the real challenge. For 2000 years, every Christian, every day, has been praying the Our Father and the prayer in the Our Father, now, in our most modern translation, “Forgive us our trespasses as those who trespass against us,” the more accurate translation, “Forgive us our debt as those who have a debt against us.”

Basically, the prayer, given to us by Christ, based on also this gospel story, we say, “Forgive us as we forgive.” We may as well say, “God, don’t bother forgiving me because I’m not going to forgive.” Now, my brothers and sisters, there’s a very easy way out, and that is for us to have compassion, and that is for us to love each other enough. To let go of the past, let go of the things that other people have said and done to us. Without it, we are choosing our own hell. You see, God wants to forgive us. God’s initial position is to forgive us for everything we have done. We are the ones who send ourselves to hell by holding onto grudges, by refusing to forgive, or worse, trying to get back at other people.

So here is our great challenge. When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, which, according to the apostles, we should be doing at least three times a day. When you get to this line, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” I encourage you, pause, and open your heart, and truly forgive them, doesn’t matter how small or how large the sin is. Remember the example in the gospel, the one who got sent to hell refused to forgive just a little bit, it wasn’t the big mountain of debt. So pause and think, “Who have I not forgiven? And then in your heart, in that moment, tell God you forgive them because your salvation, our salvation depends on our willingness to forgive even the smallest sin. Glory to God for all things.

Episode 375 – Let Go of the Past

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