Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan. ( Matthew 18:21 – 19:1)
When Peter posed the question of forgiveness, he characteristically offered an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with. Why not forgive seven times! But Jesus countered with the proposition that one must forgive seventy times that. Jesus made it clear that there is no reckonable limit to forgiveness.
How many times have you or someone you know said, “I want to forgive, but it is just too hard”? It is true, that it is difficult to forgive others who have wronged us, but forgiveness is not supposed to be that hard. I believe that forgiveness is hard because we make it so. Some don’t want to let go of the memories or the wrongdoing against us. Part of this is a protective measure to make sure that no one can hurt us like that again. Part of it is that some tend to like to play the victim, but self-pity for it is an emotion that can trap us and make us unable to forgive.
Perhaps we need to concentrate on the benefits of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a sign of strength. To free myself from what others think of me; from the opinions of the world; from my own faults and failures; from resentment and revenge. I have nothing to prove to anyone because forgiveness requires courage! “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man…Peter, from now on, you will be a fisher of men!” The Lord is capable of great forgiveness because he knows who he is, and he knows what he must do. He is fully human – a man! He invites us to follow him.
Forgiveness creates space for new life. Forgiveness is an act of hopefulness and resurrection for the one who forgives. It is the healing of our soul and life. Forgiveness takes us out of darkness into light, from death to life. It disentangles us from the evil of another. It is the refusal to let our future be determined by the past. It is the letting go of the thoughts, the hatred, the fear that fill us so that we might live and love again.
Forgiveness is realism. We are all sinners and justice would demand our very own condemnation. But the Lord’s life was a life of forgiveness. He forgave his disciples and his enemies; his people and their occupiers. Most importantly, he forgave our sins and those who sin against us
Forgiveness is equivalent to holiness. Forgiveness is impossible without God’s grace. I can only forgive my enemies and my brothers by an infusion of God’s love for me – a personal experience of God’s mercy towards me, and by a desire to forgive those who sin against me.
Finally, forgiveness is not human; it is Christian.To forgive means to imitate the Lord in his dealings with humanity, a rebellious humanity, that does not seek God but rather its own pleasures even at the expense of others.
We must remember how easily our Father in heaven forgives us each day. Shouldn’t we be able to make this choice as well? I think that the more that we keep in mind how quick God is to forgive us, and the more that we do it, then forgiveness can be an action that comes more easily for us.
Jesus, who insisted that disciples be ready to forgive, does not withhold his own forgiveness from them when they fail to do so. Jesus understood the human heart and its struggles. His desire was always to set hearts free. Forgiveness does that.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, you have been kind and forgiving towards me. May I be merciful as you are merciful. Free me from all bitterness and resentment that I may truly forgive from the heart those who have caused me injury or grief.”
C.S. Lewis, a contemporary Christian author wrote: “Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice: transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety.” If we want mercy shown to us we must be ready to forgive others as God has forgiven us.