Monday, February 25, 2008

Experiencing Forgiveness

I was studying Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant this weekend. It helped me understand the harsh spirit of many who find their way onto jury panels who decide the fate of our criminal defense clients. A short recap of the parable is instructive.
A servant owed the king an unfathomable amount of money. Since the servant could not pay his debt, the king ordered the servant and his family sold into slavery to repay it. The servant begged the king to forgive the debt. Since the king was a man of great compassion he assumed the loss and forgave the servant.

This same servant was a creditor to another man who owed him a pittance compared to the debt the king had just forgiven him. Rather than sharing the forgiveness he had received, he mistreated the other man and demanded repayment. The other man begged the servant to forgive his debt, but the servant refused.

The king learned of this and brought the servant to him saying "Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" In anger the king turned the servant over to the jailers until he should pay back all he owed.
What's the lesson? The servant received forgiveness but he hadn't really experienced forgiveness. Consequently, he was unable to share it with those who had wronged him. He was unwilling to grant to others what he wanted others to grant to him.

He lived only according to justice and became a prisoner of his own unforgiving heart. But had he lived according to forgiveness, had he experienced the forgiveness accorded him, had he shared with others what was shared with him, then he would have enjoyed his freedom.

How do we apply the lesson? First, we must experience the forgiveness accorded us rather than just being happy we're off-the-hook. To experience it, we will know it. Then we learn to identify people who share our experience. Those who live according to forgiveness, rather than justice. Strike everyone else.

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