Following Jesus is much more than external behavior. Jesus made this point in his parable of the unmerciful servant. That parable was prompted by Peter’s question regarding how many times he should forgive his brother. Peter assumed up to seven times, Jesus corrected him with the instruction to forgive seventy times seven times. Jesus then described the Kingdom of Heaven as a Master who decided to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed his master 10,000 talents, an unimaginable and unpayable sum. As his Master was about to hand him over to debtors’ prison, the servant pled with him to give him time to repay, at which the Master had compassion on the servant and forgave the debt. He forgave the debt, which meant the servant didn’t have to ever pay back what he owed. But immediately the servant went out and found another servant who owed him a rather small sum, one hundred denarii. Like he had done before his Master, his co-servant begged him to give him time to repay, but without compassion he threw his co-servant into prison until he repaid his debt. The other servants, seeing this injustice, went to their Master and explained what had happened. When he confronted his servant about what he had done to his co-servant, the Master reminded him of how he had forgiven him that great sum and declared that he should have done the same toward his co-servant. Since he had not, the Master cast the servant also into prison. Jesus concluded that this is what would happen to those who claim to follow Jesus but refuse to forgive their brothers from the heart.
Jesus’ conclusion is more than just an action, but expects his followers to feel compassion toward those who have hurt them and forgive them. The motivation for this behavior is how God our heavenly Father feels toward us who are in greater debt to Him than anyone is toward us. The compassion that we feel toward those who hurt us, is grounded in the gratitude that we have for how much we have been forgiven. When we fail to experience that compassion, it indicates that we have not recognized how much we’ve been forgiven and therefore are not grateful toward God or compassionate toward our brothers who hurt us. That compassion we are to feel toward those who hurt us does not come naturally to us, but comes from our heavenly Father though Jesus’ Spirit who dwells with us. That divine compassion we feel toward those who hurt us is yet another sign that we are children of God. Of course we also have a choice to tap into that divine compassion and forgive, or to ignore it and remain in hurt and anger toward that person. The choice is ours.
Following Jesus is much more than the development of certain disciplines and habits, but involves allowing him to address the issues of our heart, then living out the implications of what Jesus has done in our hearts.