RABIES AND FORGIVENESS

by David Sisler

The woman was bitten by a stray dog. Tests were made on the health of the dog. "I'm sorry to inform you," the doctor said, "but you have been bitten by a rabid dog."

She sat down and instantly began to write. She wrote furiously for some time. When the doctor noticed what the woman was doing he said, "It won't be necessary for you to write your will. I'm going to give you a shot which will cure you."

"I'm not writing my will," the woman said. "I'm making a list of all the people I want to bite before I get the shot."

I would have bitten Russell. More than any other person I've ever known, he caused me the greatest personal pain. For years I harbored great resentment against the man. For several months I had the newspaper in the town where he lived mailed to me. I read it, hoping to have the pleasure of reading his obituary.

Many years later, and by God's grace, I finally forgave Russell. It was then that I learned how costly forgiveness is. It cost me bitterness, hatred, and malice. It cost me my poisoned spirit. It cost me sleepless nights. To the best of my knowledge, Russell never knew of my intense feelings against him. My bitterness affected only me.

Jesus told about a king who forgave a debt which totaled 10,000 talents. Recent research indicates that a talent was almost 60 pounds of precious metal. The size of the debt which was forgiven was almost a quarter of a billion dollars.

The man who owed the debt did not ask for forgiveness. He asked only for time to make repayment. "The man said, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' The king felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt" (Matthew 18:26-27).

The man asked for time. Time would only be his enemy.

The vice president of finance for a chain of jewelry stores told about an account which someone in his firm had opened. A woman charged $13,000. She made arrangements to pay $150 per month on the account and did so faithfully for two years. Because of the interest structure on the debt and the amount of the payment, at the end of those two years the woman owed $14,000! Time only compounded the problem.

There are several interesting questions in Jesus' story.

First, in a day when the annual income for most working people was two or three talents, how did this man end up owing a 10,000 talent debt? He served a gracious king who was willing to extend any credit asked.

Second, was this the first time the king had asked for repayment? The context of the story indicates that it was.

Third, wouldn't you expect that a man who had such a large debt forgiven, would be willing to forgive any debt which was owed to him? You'd expect it. He didn't.

Immediately after the man was forgiven he found someone who owed him money. The Bible describes it as being 100 denarii a couple of days' wages an amount which could be carried in one pocket. The debtor asked for time. The forgiven debtor demanded immediate payment and threw the man into prison. When the king heard the story he reinstituted the original debt and turned the man over to the torturers until full payment of the 10,000 talents was made.

It cost me to forgive Russell. It cost the king to forgive the quarter billion dollar debt. It cost the unforgiving servant not to forgive. But the cost to you or me in extending forgiveness to someone else no matter how intense the hurt, no matter how large the debt cannot be compared with the cost to Jesus when He extended forgiveness to you and to me.

What would you pay to be forgiven? God paid the life of His only Son. Our forgiveness was that costly.

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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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