Repay or Release?

by Rocky Fleming


Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.   But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’   So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’   He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.   When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.   Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.   And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’   And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.   So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  (Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)


I heard the question again this morning.  I heard a question spoken to my heart that I’ve been asked before, and in fact, many times.  “Do you want to repay him for the way he neglected, disrespected and treated you, or do you want to repay Me for the way I’ve treated you?”  As I thought on the question it tied into a decision I had come to that it was payback time for someone who had insulted me, and I now knew with the question that I was headed in the wrong direction.  You’ve been there before, haven’t you?  Some of you are there now?  If so, I share this private wrestling match with you so that you may see the way the Lord led me, and perhaps find a path for yourself.


How does the Lord speak to us, and make personal His guidance?  Jesus said in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit would follow Him and “guide you (believers) into all the truth.”  I have found there are two ways that I seem to get the clearest guidance from the Spirit.  First would be from His words found in scripture, such as the verse above on forgiveness.  Jesus was not only clear with His answer, He added one of His parables to hammer home the point.  Like it or not, it is crystal clear what He thinks about unforgiveness.

The second way I feel Holy Spirit’s leadership, and this is really getting personal, is a kick in the gut by Him when I start to leave His ways of doing things.  For years I did not understand what “Grieving the Spirit” meant until I began to abide with Him.  It’s like a sick person who feels bad all the time, until he gets healthy and understands what he was missing.  I didn’t understand until I began to abide with Jesus what I was missing with His joy and delight, and how that same joy of His gave me joy.  An abiding relationship with the Spirit is a heart to heart connection with Him.  He not only feels my pain and what I deal with, I also feel His pain and delight.  This is not unique for me.  It is available for all His kids who will abide with Him.  Through the years I have come to understand it better.  Therefore, you will realize when I say, “kick in the gut,” I am actually saying that I feel the kick in the gut that I’m giving Him.  I feel His grief, and He is painfully and thankfully letting me know it.


It would be so easy to pay back bad things in like manner to people who have hurt us.  It is easy, for it is the way of the “Old Man” in us.  That is the way the world teaches us to release our anger and hurt.  But it doesn’t release it, for in fact it still remains, and it then owns us, and becomes a spiritual cancer that eats away at us and destroys the joy and peace that Holy Spirit wants to give us.  That is why He fights for us and kicks at us, for He wants better for us.  He wants us to be free of it.


I have also been asked another question by the Lord.  “Do you want to live a radical life for Me and my glory, or do you want to remain the old man and never grow into the man I want to make of you?”  I’ve answered that question when I said I wanted to be His man and do things His ways.  But answering it with a yes and living it out are two different matters.  The living it out means to radically go against my old man ways, and to embrace the new man God wants to make of me.  When I do this and make decisions such as I did to bless the man I initially wanted to repay in like manner, I feel God’s delight.  I feel the Spirit’s joy, and it rises up in me as a spring of sweet water does to parched ground that needs its nourishment.


Jesus is calling His family today to live radically different lives from the ways of the world.  The world needs it, and we need it ourselves.  When we do it His way, He leads us to the deepest desires of our heart.  Don’t let this treasure be taken from you by repaying rather that releasing.  It only hurts you … and Him.