However, an inherent risk of this quality is the tendency to hold a grudge even after the offender has repented. Sometimes the wrong done is so egregious and painful it is difficult to forgive. However, in many cases it is pride and self-righteousness which promote an unforgiving spirit. We must be honest with ourselves in these situations as our souls depend on bearing a forgiving spirit towards our fellow man (Mt. 6:14-15).
I am convinced one of the reasons we struggle to forgive one another is our tendency to compare ourselves to the wrong standard. Take the Pharisee and the tax collector of Luke 18:9-14 for example. In the parable, the Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other men and begins detailing his tremendous character to the holy God. The tax collector approached God in a completely different manner as he poured out his heart, begging God to be merciful to his sinful condition. The result was the tax collector went home justified, not the self-righteous Pharisee. I don't know about you, but I sure am glad I'm not like that Pharisee. See what I did there? Even if the Pharisee was living a more righteous life than the tax collector, he seemed to forget the words of Isaiah who wrote, "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags..." (Isa. 64:6).
This attitude was the unforgiving servant's undoing in Matthew 18:21-35. The servant owed a debt which was far beyond all possibility for him to repay. The price was steep in those days for failure to pay a debt and his king ordered him to be sold along with his family and all his possessions. The servant fell down and begged for mercy, and the king showed compassion on him, forgiving his debt. Sadly, in short order, the servant failed to extend the same compassion to a fellow servant who owed him far less than the king had forgiven him. When the king heard what he had done, he withdrew his mercy and ordered him to be tortured until he payed his debt in full. This story illustrates what it is like when those of us whom God has forgiven refuse forgiveness to one another.
There are two fundamental principles we should take away from this story. First, the servant was forgiven by his superior. In our relationship with God, we must never forget our rightful place. If our superior is willing to forgive us, who are we to not forgive our equals? Second, the level of debt we owe Him is far beyond anything our fellow man might owe us. Thus, when we consider ourselves in the light of God's character as opposed to that of other people, we ought to be humbled that He would forgive us. The proper response is to stand ready to forgive our fellow servants when they wrong us. If anyone has the right to hold a grudge, it is our Lord, but He extended mercy to us. Who are we to do otherwise?
One of my favorite hymns captures the attitude we must bear quite well as the chorus says, "Who am I that the King would bleed and die for? Who am I that He should pray, not My will Thine for? The answer I may never know, why He ever loved me so, that to an old rugged cross He'd go for who am I?"