From Sunday’s sermon…
The man owed a whole lot of money. I don’t mean two or three thousand dollars on a Visa, or five or six thousand on an American Express, but he owed a whole lot of money. He owed close to three million dollars. The bookie to whom he owed the money called on the phone and told the man to meet him right away.
The man knew that he was in serious trouble. He had run up those debts and had no way to pay them back. As he drove his ragged old car, all the way to the meeting he tried to think of ways to get enough money to pay back what he owed. He simply knew that his job as a waiter would never even pay the interest on the money, much less the principle.
When he got to the meeting it was as he had feared. The bookie wanted all of his money and he wanted it right then. The man pleaded and begged, but the bookie said that it was over. “You know that I am a patient man,” said the bookie, “but my patience has run thin. I need that money and I need it now. If you can’t get it I will have my boys take care of you and your family.” Terror spread through the man as he realized that he was not only going to be hurt, but the pain would be spread to his wife and two small girls. At that news he fell down on his knees crying and begging, “Please, just give me a little more time to pay back the three million. I am expecting a big tip at my waiter’s job tonight. Please don’t hurt my family, just give me a little more time.” The bookie felt something that he very rarely felt, compassion. He had seen the two small girls and they were beautiful, so he did something that he had never done before. He said to the man “O.K. I tell you what I am going to do. I am going to forget all about this debt. I shouldn’t do this, and you do not deserve it, but I am going to have pity on you. Don’t you ever forget what I have done for you.”
The man was astounded. He was free. The debt that had plagued him for almost his entire adult life had been taken away. It was almost too incredible to believe. He looked carefully at the bookie, thinking that this might be some kind of cruel joke, but he saw a look of compassion in his eyes and knew that his debt had been forgiven.
He walked outside of the restaurant where the meeting had taken place and he saw a friend, another waiter, who owed him three dollars. “Hey do you have that three dollars that you owe me?” he cried out angrily. “No, please just give me a little time, I am expecting some good tips tonight,” his friend replied in a frightened tone. The waiter was not content to wait for his three dollars, but grabbed his friend by the neck and began choking him. “Give me the three dollars. I know that you can pay,” he said. Finally his friend lost consciousness and he left him there, beaten and bruised, on the side of the street, in front of the restaurant.
What the man did not realize was that there were other waiters standing around. When they saw what the man had done, they were shocked, especially because they had heard that he had been forgiven of millions of dollars. They could not believe that a man who had been forgiven of millions, would choke a friend over three bucks, so they called the bookie.
“Is it true that you forgave a man of several million dollars today?” “Yes, why do you ask?” he said. When they told him of the waiter choking his friend into unconsciousness, the bookie was astounded. He called the man and demanded another meeting.
“What is wrong with you?” the bookie shouted! “I forgive you millions of dollars and you choke a man over a lousy three bucks. Here is your three bucks” the bookie yelled as he threw three one dollar bills at the man. “But forget about the forgiveness of your debt. You owe me the money and you owe it to me now.” With that the bookie’s friend’s, Vito and Johnny, came in and took the man out back and he was never heard from again, though some say that if you walk by the abandoned warehouse down by the docks, you can still hear him screaming at night.
This is what God our Father will do to you if you fail to forgive your brother or sister from your heart. (Samuel Lamerson, Knox Theological Seminary).