- Repent and request forgiveness
If you are the offended/sinned-against party, you can keep your valves open, even if the other person isn’t opening theirs. This kind of posture has been described as “dispositional forgiveness,” even if “transactional forgiveness” cannot yet take place. It means you are mercifully leaning in the direction of your spouse, wanting to forgive them, ready to forgive them, even if they have not yet been willing to repent and request your forgiveness.
Valves 2 and 3 are really two sides of the same coin. In relation to the person who’s sinned against you, you are extending mercy. In relation to your own heart and the cost of being sinned against, you are willing to absorb that cost.
[This valve] releases the person who sinned from the liability of suffering punishment for that sin. To open this valve, the one sinned against must lay down the temptation to say along with the unforgiving servant, “Pay what you owe!” It shuts off the flow of bitterness by opening the flow of love. (107, emphasis mine)
How often we think, feel, or even say, “I’m not going to open this valve! I’m going to make you pay!” We give the silent treatment. We withdraw. We bring up past sin and use it like a weapon. We feel that “just” forgiving the other person for their sin is too easy. It doesn’t feel just! It’s doesn’t seem fair! All of this cuts off the flow of mercy. If we are out of touch with the flood of mercy that has and does flow our way from the cross, we will never let mercy flow in the direction of those who sin against us.
- Absorb the cost
Opening the third valve requires the willingness of the one sinned against to absorb the cost of the sin. … Will the pain end with you or will you return it? … Will your heart attempt to force him to pay what he owes? Or will you follow the footsteps of the master and demonstrate a willingness to absorb the cost? (107)
Without the gospel, this is impossible. If the cost is absorbed without the power of the gospel, it turns into an ugly, prideful, self-righteous thing. “I’m going to pay this cost (sigh), even though you don’t deserve it. I’ll take the hit (puffed chest). I’ll pay the cost.” Or, it becomes a prideful, self-pitying thing. “(Sigh) I’ll be the martyr. I’ve already suffered so much (sagging shoulders). I’m used to it. I’ll absorb the cost…again.”
With the gospel, this is possible…and beautiful. It is a reflection of our Savior’s mercy. And it is empowered by our Savior’s mercy.
There is no room for pride. We are just as guilty. And we’ve been forgiven our 10,000 talent debt!
There is no reason for self-pity. We are not the one ultimately absorbing the cost. Jesus did that on the cross. We are saying “Amen” to the “It is finished!” that he triumphantly declared on the cross! We are ultimately paying the cost of that sin. We are acknowledging and echoing the fact that Jesus already paid the cost of that sin! We are saying that the cross was enough! We are refusing to act toward this person as if the cross was insufficient! We are refusing to say with our response that this person needs the cross + a little relational penance in order to be forgiven.
This is not dismissing the sin against us by saying, “It’s okay.” No, it is not okay! Jesus had to die for it! But he did die for it! And that death is sufficient to pay the debt of that sin against us. We have no right to exact our own payment in addition. We have no reason to protest, “Where’s the justice?!” Justice was served (FOR YOUR 10,000 TALENTS as well as this 100 denarii that is bugging you) on a little hill outside of Jerusalem.
The question is, “Are you going to say ‘Amen’ to John 19:30?”
Or, are you going to say that the cross isn’t quite enough – that they need to add about another 100 denarii worth of payment before you’ll be willing to forgive them?
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. (Matthew 18:35, ESV)