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Lessons in Grace- Forgiveness & The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

6 Jun

I’ve been reading (now it’s been about a year and a half!), a great book by Victor Kuligin called Ten Things I Wish Jesus Never Said.

In the chapter entitled “The Art of Spiritual Forgiveness”, Kuligin identifies the reason why people have so much trouble forgiving others. He uses the parable of the workers in the vineyard from Matthew 20:1-16 to highlight his point. In the story, the workers that have worked a full day complain to the vineyard owner that he has been unfair because he chooses to pay the same wages to those that come late and only work for a short period of time.  We learn that those who work the whole day get exactly what they had agreed to receive; a full day’s wage. When they complain, the owner, who represents God the Father, responds saying, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?” In other words, God shows favor to people in spite of what they deserve. He displays grace which, by definition is unwarranted and unearned. And this relates to our salvation. God does not grant salvation to people on a basis of the works they have done for Him. It is a free act of grace by God towards undeserving sinners.

Kuligin explains that,

“This understanding of grace is instructive concerning forgiveness because we must understand that everything we receive from God is undeserved. Everything. We will always have a tendency to harbor bitterness and grudges as long as we misunderstand God’s mercy shown to us. Once I believe all I have is mine, and what I have is deserved by me, I will be less willing to show mercy to others. After all, if they have harmed me, I deserve recompense for my suffering…

Did someone harm us, slander us, or abuse us? What they deserve, of course, is punishment. What they deserve is to endure that same treatment from others. But Jesus expects his disciples not to think that way. We have an unholy propensity for desiring mercy when we have harmed others but being stingy in offering it to those who harm us. An unforgiving spirit is almost always the product of a false view of ourselves and our salvation, placing ourselves on a pedestal above others. But when we realize God has shown us unmerited favor, we will be quick to show it to others.”

How often do we find it difficult to forgive others when they have hurt us? We are so quick to demand justice in the form of their suffering or their punishment. We can hold on to wrongs that were committed long ago when we feel that we have not adequately been repaid for our hurt. And this “unforgiving spirit” can be a result of a false view of ourselves and our salvation, as Kuligin says. As a Christian I am called to forgive those who have wronged me, no matter what the offense, because I have been shown forgiveness by God, and I do not deserve it. A right understanding of the way God has dealt with us, must lead to us quickly forgive those that have sinned against us.

Can you think of a person that you harbor bitterness or resentment towards? Maybe it is a person who has slandered and gossiped about you. Maybe it is a parent that has neglected to show you love and affection. Maybe it is a spouse who has betrayed you. Whatever the circumstance, we are called to forgive and to do it from the heart. If we are not forgiving those that have sinned against us, we need to check and see if we have truly understood our salvation and the fact that God has not dealt with us as we deserve. We must ask God to forgive us for not being quick to forgive those that have sinned against us. And then, by His grace, we must obey his command in Ephesians 4:32, to “[forgive] each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you”.