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”.

4 Responses to “Lessons in Grace- Forgiveness & The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard”

  1. auntie2t June 6, 2010 at 3:24 PM #

    I was so encourgaged to update my blog site after reading yours. If you notice, I started (tried, if you will) to put this site together in April 2009 ( actually that was the time your mom gave me info about wordpress). The usual set it aside as other more pressing issues with writing was piling up. So there it laid dormant, never thought of doing anything to it until now.

    Another great lesson and topic to ponder. Important however is that prayerfully we will truly learn to follow and obey. Here are two questions that comes to mind.

    1. We hear these words said it is easier to forgive than forget. Is it possible to offer forgiveness without forgetting?

    2. When Jesus say he will remember our sins no more, wash them as white as snow, it is an assurance that HE took care it ALL. Yet, seldom the word ‘forget’ is explained or uttered; most importantly the conntations if any to the act of forgiveness?

    What guidelines, if any does the bible say about forgetting?


  2. mtopalian June 6, 2010 at 10:47 PM #

    Thanks for your comment!

    In response to your two questions, I have some thoughts.

    1) Your question, “Is it possible to offer forgiveness without forgetting?” is a good one. The answer is yes and no at the same time. Forgiveness in one sense, does not mean acting as if nothing has happened. Victor Kuligin provided an explanation of how this teaching that “forgiving is forgetting” can be misinterpreted. He gives the example of a how if you as a parent found out that someone had abused one of your children, you and your child must forgive that person, regardless of how difficult. But that being said, you cannot act as if you do not know what that person has done, and therefore act as if everything exists in the same relationship as before and allow that person to spend time alone with your child. In light of what a person may have done in sinning against us, we may have to behave differently towards them as a result of the new information we have received. That being said, we are not to seek revenge or payback or retaliation. The Bible tells us that we are not to “repay evil for evil”. We can pray for those who have hurt us, but not look to do them harm. So in that sense we don’t “forget” what they have done, but we do forgive them.

    Another quote from Kuligin on the topic that emphasizes how we are to forgive identifies that, “The relationship after forgiveness also depends on the person whom you have had to forgive and the type of relationship you have with that person. If it is my wife whom I must forgive, I certainly should attempt to live as if the offence never happened. To do otherwise might result in holding a grudge against my wife, and then our marriage would suffer. But I can hardly accept that a child molester is not a child molester or that it is acceptable to share my darkest secrets with someone I have recently learned to be an incurable gossip.”

    2) In Isaiah 43:25, we learn that God says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” For those that have come to trust in God for the forgiveness of their sins, it is true that He remembers our sin no more in that He no longer counts our offences against us. We are called to do the same, and therefore not count the offences a person has committed towards us against them or seek to do them harm.

    Hope this is helpful 🙂

  3. auntie2t June 7, 2010 at 11:17 AM #

    Heres a hymm that has kept my ears humming about GRACE- GOD”S GRACE. Sing along with me prayerfully as you ponder on the words.

    Grace Greater than Our Sin

    1.Marvelous grace of our loving Lord
    Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt
    Yonder on Calvary’s mount out poured,
    there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt,

    Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within,
    Grace, grace God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!

    Grab a hymnal, sing each stanza, prayerfully feel the power of the words, and give thanks for the Marvelous Grace the Lord so freely gives to all.

    with love,

  4. jon blog November 17, 2013 at 9:17 PM #

    good work. I also really like this other perspective on the laborers in the vineyard. http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-laborers-in-the-vineyard?lang=eng it something I had never heard before but made complete sense

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