“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
All but two or three versions of the Bible reflect you have to forgive your brother or sister from your heart if you wish to avoid the treatment Jesus is alluding to in this verse. If we look at just a few verses prior we find
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
That doesn’t really fully answer the question really either. To get the full answer we would have to start at verse twenty-one and consider the title of the section 18:21-35 which is The Parable of the Unmerciful or Unforgiving Servant depending what version you have. Clearly mercy and forgiveness are heavily related in this parable.
The parable begins with Peter asking Jesus about how many times one should forgive someone who sins against him followed by Jesus answer.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
So we know the parable begins with forgiveness and not just forgiveness for one thing and one thing only but for seventy-seven (or seven times seventy in some versions) meaning really that forgiveness should be continual and ongoing. This is a reflection of how God forgives. When Jesus died for our sins on the cross, it was not for a particular sin of each person, but for each and every sin we have ever committed. I don’t know if seven times seventy would be enough for my sins.
What follows in the parable is a king forgiving a servant who owed him 10,000 bags of gold and canceling the debt. But this same servant was owed 100 silver coins by another servant. Did he show the same mercy and forgiveness he received? No he did not, he refused.
30 But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Uh-oh … the master who forgave his much greater debt now knows what he did and did not do. What do you think happened?
32 Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
Matthew Henry captures this thought of forgiving from the heart very well with the following
[T]his latter part of the parable shows the false conclusions many draw as to their sins being pardoned, though their after-conduct shows that they never entered into the spirit, or experienced the sanctifying grace of the gospel. We do not forgive our offending brother aright, if we do not forgive from the heart. Yet this is not enough; we must seek the welfare even of those who offend us. How justly will those be condemned, who, though they bear the Christian name, persist in unmerciful treatment of their brethren! The humbled sinner relies only on free, abounding mercy, through the ransom of the death of Christ. Let us seek more and more for the renewing grace of God, to teach us to forgive others as we hope for forgiveness from him.
It’s Friday, I hope you have a Great Weekend and remember to Go to Church giving thanks for the wonderful Free Gift of Grace.