Forgiveness Is a Path That Never Ends
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if a brother sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22).
I can almost hear Peter heave a great sigh when he hears Jesus’ answer to his question. Seventy-seven times? Yikes!
• [See yesterday’s teaching for the meaning of “brother.”]
• Seven times was already a large number, seven being a number of
completeness in the ancient world.
• But seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven, another translation) takes Peter’s question and expands basically it into infinity: you will never be through forgiving!
This teaching encapsulates the central role of forgiveness in early Christian
communities, as they attempted to live into their role in God’s mission.
• In John’s Gospel, we read: “… Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working”… Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise” (John 5:17, 19).
• Jesus makes these statements when he is criticized for healing on the Sabbath.
• The critique has caused Jesus to make clear that his work is the continuation of God’s work.
• In his teachings on forgiveness, we can see that our work is a continuation of Jesus’ work.
• Today, we add the understanding that this work of forgiveness and
reconciliation is never over and done with, never completed: “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”
Questions for Reflection
• Forgiveness can take a very long time to work through, or it may require many repeated acts of forgiveness. What has been your most serious and difficult act offorgiveness or reconciliation? What was the role of time in the process of forgiveness? How did the issue and your interpretation of it change over time?
• How might Christians today be witnesses to the power of forgiveness? What aspect of our larger society is most in need of forgiveness or reconciliation? What might your part be in that larger effort of forgiveness?
Gracious God, you have been patient and forgiving with me over the course of my life. Teach me to extend that same patience and forgiveness to others, that through me your reconciling work may bless the world that you made and love. In the Name of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit I pray. Amen.