Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)
Verse 21Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Verse 22Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Verse 23"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. Verse 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; Verse 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. Verse 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' Verse 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. Verse 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, 'Pay what you owe.' Verse 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' Verse 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. Verse 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Verse 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Verse 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' Verse 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. Verse 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
There are limits to my patience. There are lines that I have drawn as boundaries which I patrol with eagle-eye. My anger against offenders is usually “righteous.” I see God on my side supporting my anger—the call to forgive just seems to make me a doormat
And then I hear today’s reading again.! Forgiveness is essential, endless—and often some of the hardest work we do. How can you forgive the one who maliciously did you dirt? And how many times? Seven times? Even seventy times seven!?
That number astounds me and places my minor pieties in bold relief. Who am I kidding? I’ve lived all of my seventy-six years within the nurturing and sometimes maddening embrace of the faith. And yet here I am still stuck in “Spirituality 101!” I am a woefully, sinfully slow learner. Thank goodness God is patient, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. For here I am, forgiven yet once again—and loved always. All thanks be to our forgiving God!
Understanding God, help me in my arrogance and my foolishness. Let me bear witness to your forgiving love in a life of service and forgiveness. You alone are the source of my strength and my humanity. Help me to be the person you have created and called me to be. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.