From the Pastor Desk...........
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." -- Matthew 18:21-22 of the Revised Standard Version
I was once asked, “What role has forgiveness played in your life?” I pondered the question for some time as two truths came to light. First, forgiveness is all about relationship. Peter’s question was about forgiving his brother, one with whom he was in relationship with. We cannot have healthy, vulnerable, life-giving relationships with one another if we do not practice forgiveness. I can remember several times in my life where I felt that I was wronged in some way by somebody I was close with. If I got hung up on the issue, I found myself resenting that person and, naturally, the relationship suffered and/or ended altogether. If I worked on forgiving them, the relationship continued to grow and strengthen.
The second truth about forgiveness is that it never really ends. I think this truth is reflected in Jesus’ response to Peter. Seventy times seven times is a metaphor for “always and don’t stop.” With that in mind, I would re-word the original question to read in the present tense, “What role does forgiveness play in your life?” This is true with both the larger wrongs that have impacted me as well as the smaller, every day kinds of wrongs. I have long given up on the phrase, “forgive and forget.” I don’t really forget. I can’t forget how certain actions have negatively affected my life nor can I forget where I have fallen short in my various relationships. Therefore, I don’t think of forgiveness in the past tense. Forgiveness is an on-going process, both in being the forgiver and as one seeking forgiveness. This realization helped me come to understand the necessity of God in the ongoing process of forgiveness.
`I think that real forgiveness requires a divine aspect. I am not sure that humans can truly forgive on their own. On our own, I think we try to bury the past and pretend things are OK, but we cannot truly forgive without really understanding what forgiveness is. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection shows us what forgiveness actually is. God’s grace and mercy helps us to understand that forgiveness is an ongoing, reciprocal process of love and mercy, confession and grace. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that we are going to sin again. I continue to ask for forgiveness from God because I need to feel God’s grace and love in order to offer the same grace and love to others. One way I visualize forgiveness is as God’s grace, mercy, and love flowing out through Jesus and into me to be shared with everyone I meet. If I offer grace to those who have hurt me and offer to make amends to those whom I have hurt, I am actively practicing forgiveness. This is difficult so I pray for God’s help.
now invite you to contemplate the power of God’s grace, mercy, and love by asking you, “What role does forgiveness play in your life?” Think about it for a while. Pray for enlightenment. Share your thoughts with someone. Most of all, practice forgiveness in your daily life.