View print-optimized version
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Today’s Reading | Matthew 18:21–35
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.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, 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. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But 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.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (NRSV)
There have been times in my life when I have prayed that God would grant me the gift of forgiveness about one issue or another or one person or another. Sometimes the only way we find the ability to forgive is when God answers our prayers about forgiving. The hurt, the anger, and the resentment suddenly dissipate. I don’t think it happens often this way, but when it does it is a God-given miracle.
The words from Matthew tell us that if someone in the church wrongs us, we are to forgive that person not just seven times but seventy-seven times—in other words, as much as is necessary. Jesus set the bar really high. Not many of us measure up. In any community, church or otherwise, harboring grudges and hurts and resentments and hate causes immense harm. And yes, there’s a difference between forgiving someone and letting someone hurt you over and over again.
I don’t think Jesus wants us to forgive in some surface, meaningless way, dispensing cheap grace as though nothing matters and we are impervious to hurt. I don’t think Jesus wants us to put ourselves in harm’s way. I do think Jesus wants us to engage with one another, to be honest about when we’ve been harmed, to be courageous in the telling, to listen and try to understand, to hear the other side. What is so hard about forgiving someone is that it entails letting go of the idea that the score can be evened up. To forgive means that the forgiver has to give up something—the need for due payment.
God loves us way more than any of us can imagine, way more than we ever love God. God has forgiven us for that and has given up the idea that the score can ever be even.
Dear Jesus, give us courage to ask for our hearts to be softened. Give us wisdom about our need to forgive and our need to ask for forgiveness. Help us to forgive ourselves. And most of all, help us to understand the magnitude of the forgiveness you have granted to us. Amen.
Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care
Devotion index by date | I’d like to receive daily devotions by email