One morning, as we were walking around Mr. Camdey’s garden together (despite his age, Mr. Camdey insisted upon daily exercise), a man who was watering the plants stood and turned abruptly. He was either lost in thought or simply not paying attention, for his mud-plastered watering can knocked against my chest and splashed both Mr. Camdey and me with a large quantity of hose water. My face reddened as I wiped it with my suit sleeve. The suit was one of my only ones, and I had had a hard time getting it. I spluttered indignantly and began to berate the shame-faced worker. After a few moments, I glanced over at Mr. Camdey, expecting him to be nodding in agreement with a look of anger, but instead, he smiled kindly at the man. “Oh, don’t be too hard on him, Mr. Tamwit. It was an honest mistake made by an honest man. Paul, go and refill the can. John and I will dry off in the house.” Later, I asked him how he could forgive the man so easily. Mr. Camdey settled down with a towel wrapped around his wet suit and began to explain.
“Well, then, so we are onto the subject of forgiveness. Now understand, forgiveness is not easily given, nor is it always easily accepted. It is a gift, given freely because of a greater gift given to all.” Mr. Camdey raised an eyebrow at me.
There were a few moments of silence as I scribbled on the parchment, the old-fashioned quill waving in the air excitedly. Mr. Camdey continued: “You are a bank accountant, are you not? Well then, let me put a parable in Mathew 18 in a way you can understand. Imagine that the bank you work for has lent a poor man a great sum so that he might pay off his debts, buy a house and a few cars, and do whatever else. Then, after a few months, the stock prices drop dramatically. The house and cars he bought are no longer worth as much as they were before. The agreement between the bank and the man was that the man would repay his loan in three years. But the stock prices keep dropping; they drop lower than the Great Depression. Well now, the house and the cars are only worth a few thousand dollars at most. The man sells his cars and his house, plus everything else he owns. But the money he is left with is nowhere close to what he was lent. When the bank finds out, they decide to send the man to prison until he can repay the loan. But the poor man falls on his face and begs for mercy. The bank pities him and releases him of his loan —every penny of it.”
I snorted. “No bank would be insane enough to do that.”
“Well, this one was. So the man, released of this great weight, went out onto the street. There he saw another poor man, even poorer than he, who was living amongst the trash and dust of the streets. This poorer man owed the debtor a few dollars, so the debtor seized the beggar and demanded his money. The poor man begged for mercy—he did not even have enough money to buy food—but the debtor refused to show grace and threw him into prison. When the bank heard of this, they had the debtor brought before them. ‘You fool! We released you such a great debt, and you could not forgive that beggar even a small one.’ And they threw the debtor into prison until he could repay that great sum. And you can be sure he was in jail for a very, very long time.”
I sat in silence for some time. “So the moral of the story is…?”
Mr. Camdey rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “The moral of the parable is to forgive. If God forgave all people in the world all their sin, can we not forgive for the sake of Him who forgave us?”
I grumbled under my breath. Mr. Camdey put a hand to his ear. “Old age does not hear well. What was that you were saying?”
I spoke up innocently. “I was saying what a good point you have.”
“Mmmhmm.” Mr. Camdey looked unconvinced.
“Honestly!” I spread my hands, then shook a finger at him. “Forgive, remember?”
Mr. Camdey grinned and decided to continue. “Well, as I was saying, it is not easy to forgive when someone has hurt you, especially when that hurt is in the heart. But with the Lord’s help, we can do it. I cannot tell you how many times I have forgiven and asked for forgiveness. I even forgave you for scolding my worker for me.” With that, the lesson closed.