Let’s make the issue plain. When someone sins against you, his debt is totally unpayable. He hurt you and he cannot make things right again. He can try to bring life back to normal. He can apologize and work and suffer and make his contrition very clear, but does that repay the debt? No. Can his regret restore lost time? No. Is his confession some extraordinary balm that soothes all the open emotional wounds? No. Do the words, “I’m sorry,” magically take away all the careless words from the painful past? No. Are rote apologies any kind of guarantee that it won’t happen again? No. Sin is simply a black abyss, an empty vacuum, and no amount of anything can ever right the wrong.
But there is another option. A king once had a servant who owed him a life’s worth of wages. The servant was stupid; he begged and said, “I’ll pay you back,” an obvious lie. Yet the king was a good king, and in his goodness and compassion, he told the man, “You no longer have to pay your debt. You are forgiven.” That of course meant that all of the debt would fall on the king’s shoulders. All the lost money and time and honor, the king simply had to absorb. And we of course know that in the end of the true story, the King had to die.
Can you forgive the brother you thought you couldn’t forgive? No. Forgiveness is a miracle; in order for you to forgive, you must die. Take all the shame and loss and pain and choose to die—not the dramatized tragic death of a feigned martyr; this is the true death of the debt that happens in the heart. The miracle is that somehow, out of the dead vacuum created by sin, forgiveness—true forgiveness from a heart that has decided to die in order to forgive the offender—can create life.
The secret is that all your debts have been paid. Moreover, you have such a vast inheritance that to nitpick over the debts of others is ridiculously shortsighted. The other secret is that you have already died with Christ and have already been brought back to life. Thus, you can freely lose your life in forgiveness every day. And in losing your life you find it. Good can overcome evil, and the victory is overwhelming. The victory of true forgiveness has the power to defeat sin once, twice, seven times, seventy times seven, and then some. God can raise the dead, and He can make the unforgivable forgivable. He can take the irreconcilable relationship and bring about the beauty and warmth or reconciliation. God can break the bondage of sin and set free both the forgiven and, gloriously, the forgiver.