During the Lord’s mortal ministry, He taught the parable of the unforgiving debtor. A man owed the king a great debt and, as he could not pay it, the king ordered that the man and his family be sold in lieu of payment. The man fell on his knees and begged to be allowed more time to pay. But the king did even better than asked—he showed great mercy and forgave the man all. Shortly thereafter, that former debtor found someone who owed him a small sum and demanded its immediate payment. When this second man fell on his knees and begged for more time, he was flatly refused and was cast into prison. When the king learned of this he sought out the first man and asked, “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” and then had the man delivered up to the harsh demands of the law.
The application of this parable is evident. We all have sinned and would have been forever in the grasp of Satan according to the demands of justice, but our Savior extended mercy to us, laid down His perfect life in exchange for ours and erased that enormous debt. And yet, after receiving that gift, we may be tempted to withhold mercy from those who wrong us. The parable teaches that we cannot retain forgiveness if we refuse to extend it to others. This principle is taught several other times in the scriptures, including in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…”
Forgiving those who have wronged us can be very challenging, but ultimately our negative feelings burden us far more than anyone else. Our personal feelings of hurt, anger or sadness eat away at the joy, love and peace that the Lord offers us through His Atonement. Just as we allow Him to take our sins away when we repent, even so we recognize His power to take away the sins of others when we forgive.
We cannot bring grudges, small or large, into Heaven. In order to enter His kingdom we must drop them all at Jesus’ feet and recognize His power to wash away all sin. Should we choose to hold onto them, we would reject the fullness of the Atonement and stubbornly bar our own entrance into Eternal joy. Instead, let us keep the Savior’s counsel and remember the attendant promise, “if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.”