Thursday, September 8, 2011

Forgiveness

  No doubt Peter thinks he has got it made.  The Law only requires that an offender be forgiven 3 times. On the fourth time, the offender was cut off from the faith community.  An original "three strikes" rule, sort to speak.  And here Simon Peter offers to extend forgiveness seven times-- more than double what is required.  So Peter must be feeling pretty good about his generous spirit.
  Jesus, however, asks Peter to go further.  Jesus tells Peter that he must be willing to forgive some one 70 times 7 (some Bibles read 77 times or even 77 times 7).  The number 7 is often used to denote wholeness or completeness in the Bible.  So Jesus is challenging Peter- and you and me- to keep forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving, and then to forgive some more.  Keep on forgiving until you have lost count of the number of times you offered it.  In other words, forgiveness has no limits.
  Elsewhere, Jesus links our ability to receive forgiveness with our ability to extend forgiveness to others.  We tend to be good at receiving forgiveness and expecting it almost as a right.  But we are not so good at extending forgiveness to others.  Instead we hang on to the anger, the hurt, the resentment. 
  In the Lord's Prayer, we are taught to pray "Forgive us our sins (trespasses) as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us" (Matthew 6:12).  Christians around the world pray this prayer almost every Sunday, and many every day.  But I wonder . . . I wonder, do you and I really mean it?   

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