In 1993 Mary Johnson lost her only son when he was shot during an argument at a party. Her first reaction was to want Oshea Israel, the shooter, to pay for his crime, and he did. He served 17 years of a 25.5 year sentence. What is interesting is that after his release from jail, Oshea not only returned to his old neighborhood but moved right next door to Mary. Before you get appalled at this bold move, you need to know that it was not by accident. Mary herself made it happen. A few years prior to his release, Mary was overcome by the conviction to forgive him, so she set out to do just that through the course of several meetings. After some time, she was able to not only forgive him but help him upon his departure from prison. In fact, they don’t just LIVE close to each other—they are close in spirit. Mary gives God the glory for her ability to forgive such a tragedy, “unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about the other person, me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done. Yes, he murdered my son – but the forgiveness is for me. It’s just for me.” (Story from belief.net)
Mary’s story may seem unbelievable. However, forgiveness is something that God calls us to, and Matthew 18:15-35 makes that clear. First, it is clear that forgiveness should be a priority. Verse 15 says if your brother (or sister) sins against you, go and try to make it right. Don’t gossip about them. Don’t trash their name. Don’t try to get even. Don’t stew in your anger. Go and try to make it right. Forgiveness and reconciliation should be a priority. Not only is it a priority, it is a necessity, at least if you don’t want to suffer God’s wrath. In our passage today, we see the servant who had been forgiven much by his master refuse to forgive his fellow servant who owed him much less. In response, the master delivered him to the jailer until he should pay all his debts. Then we are told, “so also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Knowing the debt I have before God, I know I had better forgive or I’m in trouble. How about you? Mary’s example of forgiveness may seem extraordinary, but actually to a follower of Jesus, it should be normal. Is there anyone today you need to forgive? Then forgive. God doesn’t want excuses.