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It doesn't add up

What you see above are advertisements for three Hollywood movies. The three movies have something very unusual in common. All three are about real-life mathematical geniuses. Who would have thought that numbers would have been so script-worthy?

As we move deeper into the season of Lent, I've been thinking about another remarkable story about numbers. This story is truly amazing as well as very frightening.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Jesus' parable is absolutely stunning. As a matter of fact, if it doesn't take our breath away, then we haven't truly understood it.

As I think about the parable, several questions come to mind.

  1. Do I realize just how great a debtor I am to God?

  2. Why did Jesus use such strong language in describing what happens to those who fail to forgive?

  3. What does it mean to forgive someone "from your heart"?

  4. How can I know that I'm truly forgiven?

As I continue to think about the parable of the unmerciful servant, I think about another teaching of Christ.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

Like the disciples of old, when it comes to forgiveness, I must cry out and plead: "Increase my faith!"

Martin Luther realized this. Here are just a few of his thoughts on the forgiveness of sins.


I am completely steeped in, and saturated with, the article of the forgiveness of sins. I am dealing with it constantly, day and night; and all my thoughts are of Jesus Christ, my only Savior, who has atoned and paid for my sin. I grant the Law—and all the devils—nothing. If only a man can believe the forgiveness of sin, he is a blessed person.


If the great, sublime article called the forgiveness of sins is correctly understood, it makes one a genuine Christian and gives one eternal life. This is the very reason why it must be taught in Christendom with unflagging diligence and without ceasing, so that people may learn to understand it plainly, clearly, and discriminatingly. For to do so is the one, supreme, and most difficult task of Christians. As long as we live here below, we shall have enough to do to learn this article. No one need look for anything new, anything higher and better.


He who sincerely desires the forgiveness of sins must at least have the resolve not to incur guilt any more, that it, to abstain from sins, to reform himself and become more pious. For to continue in sins and not to want to abstain from them but nonetheless to pray for forgiveness of sins, is mocking our Lord God.


Christianity is nothing but the constant practicing of this passage, namely, being convinced that you have no sin although you have sinned, that your sins rest on Christ, who is the eternal savior from sin, death and hell.

Let me wrap this up with one last story. A number of years ago I came across a most unusual website: The Forgiveness Project. This project stated in the United Kingdom and has spread world-wide.

What makes The Forgiveness Project so remarkable is that it's a secular organization. Still, I think that the real-life stories found on its website can help us better understand the teachings of Jesus.

Here is a link to the site:

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