St. Paul’s, Montrose
Then 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?”
Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18: 21-22
Jesus prayed, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Have you noticed the correlation here? God is not to be the only forgiver. There is also an expectation that we will forgive, again and again if need be. No one is keeping score so the number of times we have to forgive is irrelevant. Since no one appointed me judge and jury, it does not matter if I think another “deserves” forgiveness.
For me, forgiveness was a hard concept to grapple with, and I was well into my young adult years before I had my “aha” moment that brought me some understanding. I had been monetarily wronged by a neighbor and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. As Phyllis Tickle put it, he was getting free rent in my head. I wanted him to understand how deceitful he had been. I was consumed with wondering how I could forgive him when he did not even admit that he was wrong. Suddenly, one night, it occurred to me that forgiveness was not about him at all. It was about giving me the freedom to move on.
I heard the inspirational speaker Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Roman Catholic and a member of the Tutsi tribe. She authored Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (2006). Most of her family was murdered in the 1994 Rwandan genocide while she hid for 91 days with seven other women in a 3×4 foot bathroom hidden by a wardrobe in a Hutu pastor’s house. Eventually, her faith led her to forgiveness and compassion toward her family’s Hutu killers. God, grant me the faith to forgive like that.