Forgive the Torturers

“”Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers (Greek = “torturers”), until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”” (Matt 18:32-35)


A group was praying for a key to breakthrough in our local city on 23.6.09, and I believe that the Lord directed me in the way outline in this teaching. Whilst the precise nature of this article is specific to the Australian scene, the foundational principles underlying it are universal.

How Big is Your Heart?

The Lord had been speaking to me for some time about his own huge heart, and I had been asking him questions about this. As we prayed, he brought to mind several related passages, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be …3 heartless,” (1 Tim 3:1-3); “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They are …foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Rom 1:28, 31).

As I prayed over the meaning of “heartless”, what has been happening in recent years in South Africa came to mind. At Angus Buchan’s Mighty Men’s Conference in April 2009 200,000 plus men united to pray and pledge for the transformation of their nation. I heard recently at a global conference in Hong Kong that there are 6,000 churches in South Africa running 24/7 prayer meetings. The Global Day of Prayer, launched in Cape Town by Graham Power nine years ago, this year involved for the first time all 224 nations of the world. At this point two things came together in my mind, Nelson Mandela and Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant.

When Mandela was released from 27 years in prison (1990), he was found to be preaching a message of unilateral and unconditional forgiveness. This led to the development of the Truth and Reconciliation process headed up by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. All other factors aside, I believe this broke open something in the spiritual realm over South Africa that is foundational to what is happening in that nation now[1]. I was asking the Lord what was the key spiritual difference between that nation and ours. The answer is clearly that God touched Mandela with a grace to forgive all, and this reflected his own huge heart as a Father. This is quite simply what we are lacking in Australia; fathers of the nation who forgive like God forgives, unilaterally and unconditionally.

Forgiveness without limits

The parable of the unforgiving servant is familiar to us. The two servants represent those who would follow Jesus, and the master symbolises God. In the first scene, a servant who owes his master an impossible debt[2] begs for time to repay. His lord’s mercy exceeds the request and his debt is totally remitted. In the second scene the forgiven servant violently refuses to release a fellow servant from a miniscule debt[3] and throws the poor wretch in prison. This servant does the exact opposite of what the master (God) has done for him. Finally, hearing of this wickedness from other distressed servants[4], the master in anger throws this merciless servant into prison where the “torturers”[5] will afflict him until the debt is paid – which is never. Jesus concludes with a word of great seriousness, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Since this parable was initially told in relation to Peter’s question, ““Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”” (Matt 18:21), Jesus point is unequivocal; forgiveness must be unilateral and unconditional. This is the command of the heavenly Father. Those who do not forgive as God forgives cannot experience God’s grace, they cut themselves off from his heart and subject their lives here, and (if they do not repent) hereafter, to intolerable torment.

Mandela said, ‘We can never be free unless we learn to forgive.’ Those who refuse to forgive will always be internally tormented by anger, bitterness, malice, accusation, envy, restlessness. Around them will be strife and interpersonal conflict, ““Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.”” (Rom 3:15-17).

Who initiates Forgiveness?

The answer to this question is vital. The one who has the primary authority to initiate forgiveness is the offended party. In the parable this is firstly the master who is owed the debt, then the forgiven servant who is likewise in a position to release another. Jesus story is teaching that when we forgive those who trespass against us (Matt 6:11-12) we are living from the heart like God our Father lives.

Always in the Bible it is God, the offended party who has been sinned against, who initiates reconciliation. “God so loved the world that he…” (John 3:16), “God put forward (Christ) as a propitiation by his blood” (Rom 3:25); “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19).

This is why the Mandela case is so illustrative. The person who had suffered at the hands of jailers/torturers for so long and with such pain freely offered them the release from the prison of their own sin.

Forgiveness traumatises Demons

As we were praying through all this I felt the Lord saying, “Satan has no power or authority to forgive.” It is impossible for Satan to forgive; he is an accuser by (fallen) nature (Rev 12:10) and cannot forgive.

I sensed as we prayed that the demonic hierarchy of thrones, dominions, principalities, demons, is held together by mutual malice, accusation, fear, control etc. It must be, since it is completely devoid of that “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14). When forgiveness is practised “from the heart”[6] the manifestation of such essential God-likeness on earth sends the evil powers in the heavenly places into total disarray. This explains the opening of heaven over South Africa.

Who are the Leaders in Forgiving?

If God is always the leader in forgiving[7] because he is the one first and most grievously sinned against, then the people with the greatest authority to be like God are those who have suffered the most. Those who have been dispossessed, massacred, poisoned, deprived of human rights, treated as second class citizens and so on. In the Australian context, this is most definitely the Aboriginal people of the land. If anyone has a right to seek retribution and vengeance it is this much sinned against people. But, no human has this right, only God, and his heart is a heart full of forgiveness. A huge obstacle is in the way of the aborigines embracing their destiny as the spiritual leaders of this nation.

With tremendous grief of heart and deep pain I believe the Spirit of God said to me, “I have handed these people over to the torturers because they have not forgiven their brothers from the heart.” This is the torture of alcoholism, domestic violence, sexual abuse, chronic illness, inter-family feuding and so on. All of this grieves God more than we can imagine[8]! No one wants to speak of these things, to talk of the anger of God, as Jesus did (Matt 18:34-35), is always lamentable, but denying this reality can only cause more pain.

What does God Require?

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). God’s first and great requirement is that we see spiritual leaders from the aboriginal community raised up who “LOVE mercy”.

It is a very sad fact of personal experience that I know there are significant Aboriginal Christian leaders at a national level who will unashamedly confess that they are still angry with the white man. One said at a public time of prayer, “We have forgiven you but we are still angry with you!” Apparently this man does not believe that God’s forgiveness in Christ has taken away His anger forever[9].

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a very well known healing text, “14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”. When the Spirit of God falls upon key Aboriginal leaders in this nation who go on to manifest the humility of Christ in forgiving those who do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34) this land will be healed. It will be healed racially, socially, economically, physically and environmentally.


The need is urgent, the time is short. God is “no respecter of persons”, he shows no partiality[10] in relation to colour or nationality, he does not hate the white man neither does he curse the black man. What he is doing in South Africa, Argentina, the Philippines, India….he wants to do in every place. This is a time however of intense spiritual warfare, “flesh and blood” is not our enemy (Eph 6:12), those who detest us are the evil powers who hate the humility that flows from giving and receiving forgiveness. This prophetic word is therefore a call to arms, a call to fight as God fights, to fight the good fight of the cross, to fight with the invincible weapons of unilateral and unconditional forgiveness, for when we fight like this, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against us” (Matt 16:18).

[1] I am not being idealistic about this, South Africa, like the Roman Empire of Paul’s time, has huge social problems, but something had broken through in the heavenlies.

[2] Ten thousand talents is equivalent to our “zillions”, or, because of the grammar, “incalculable”.

[3] Which is 1/600,000th of his own.

[4] Who represent the “two or three witnesses” to a brother’s sinning in Matthew 18:16.

[5] The use of the word “jailers” is an unfortunate softening of the Greek basanistes, which should be translated “torturer”. Torture was often used in the ancient world to force compliance through pain.

[6] As compared to hypocritically or in pretence.

[7] Christ is slain for our forgiveness from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).

[8] “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not grieve the children of men from his heart”. (Lam 3:31-33)

[9] This person I have only heard interstate, so I have not had the opportunity to follow this up one-to one.

[10] 2 Chron 9:17; Job 34:19; Acts 10:34; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25.

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