“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Two adult sisters lived together in a somewhat contentious relationship. Finally, one of the sisters hurt the other quite deeply and she was asked to move out. The resulting rift kept them apart for some time. Finally, a friend who knew them both went to the sister who carried the grievance. “I have spoken to your sister”, she said, “and she is deeply sorry for hurting you and wants to move back in with you. I really think you should forgive her.” The offended sister thought for a few moments then replied, “Oh, all right. I’ll forgive her. But she’s no good, you know. And I have done nothing wrong. She’d better not hurt me again.”
Forgiveness is a delicate and dangerous tool. In the hands of someone who believes they really need no forgiveness, it can become a patronizing, condescending and begrudging instrument of manipulation and control. Many people practice this kind of forgiveness. Maybe you have done so. Actually, it can hardly be called fogiveness at all. And it is certainly not the kind of forgievness we speak of where God is concerned.
There is one requirement for those who would truly forgive; they must see themselves as a forgiven one, with no claim to rights. When one of Jesus disciples asked Him if seven times was an adequate number of times to forgive, His reply was designed to expose that sense of being a forgiven one. Seventy times seven, was His reply. In other words, forgivers don’t keep track. Forgiven ones forgive. I have known people who are deeply offended by this. You may be.
We are all offenders against God. This is the great, overarching truth of the human condition. God has answered with the cross and the forgiveness that is in His Son. Those who stand in awe and gratitude under this forgiveness of God are truly in a position to forgive. Not as a magnanimous gesture of good will, but as an expression of sheer grace and mercy. The Christian forgives and forgets, not because it is easy but because we are the forgiven ones.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”