21 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Dear God, I suppose it all starts with forgiveness. We are imperfect, and you put us in charge of raising other humans leaving them not only with their own imperfections but also scarred by ours as well. We interact with others every day. We sin against you, ourselves and others. It all becomes worse than a ball of tangled Christmas lights. There is no way to get the knots out. The only thing to do is take some scissors, cut it off and throw it away.
The interesting thing is that Jesus doesn’t only tell us that we have to humble ourselves and be forgiven, but he says it starts with us humbling ourselves and extending forgiveness. So what keeps me from forgiving people?
- Severe hurt — Okay, that is true, but what’s behind that. For example, I’m thinking of the person who forgives someone for killing their loved one. Yes, there was severe hurt, but what is the thing that changes that enables that person to forgive? It’s not like the hurt goes away, although it might dull with time. But I suspect (I don’t know) part of the forgiveness involves letting go of an expectation. In this case, an expectation that you would be able to be with that person as long as humanly possible. For the parent betrayed by a child, letting go of the expectations, hopes and dreams the parent had for that child.
- Betrayal — I’m embarrassed to say how often I have held a grudge due to betrayal. There is one person I can think of who betrayed me (at least, I perceived she betrayed me) about 10 years ago, and I still cringe when I hear her name. Why? Because I thought I had a right to have her behave in a certain way and when she didn’t I was deeply offended.
I think a lot of forgiveness starts with me giving up my rights, and I suppose, when I think about it, that’s where it starts with you as well. You have a right to hold all of the stuff I’ve done again me. The ways I’ve hurt you, others, and myself are really unforgivable. And you have a right, as a perfect God, to not let me off of the hook, but not only did you let me off the hook, but you did it at such a great personal cost–your son’s life and suffering. Your love for me caused you great pain. How can I ever forget that?
Father, I will never begin to understand your forgiveness of me until I can forgive others. If you simply forgive me while I hold on to all of my grudges, then I am like the man in this parable who is harsh with others while expecting everything from you. My rights, my rights, my rights. Help me to turn loose of my rights, lay them at the foot of your cross, and them worship you.
In Jesus’s name I pray,