Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Forgive them? how many times Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus is pushing us in the Gospel reading this week to forgive as we ask God to forgive.

He's pushing us to look at the people who have hurt us with forgiveness in our hearts. Part of me calls this preposterous thinking. There's this part in all of us; the part that bear grudges, keeps track of wrongs and offenses intentional or accidental. This part is the old Adam creeping around in all of us. We know who owes us. The man who had been forgiven so much by the king surely knew who still owed him.

Jesus is pushing us to be resurrection people. He's pushing us and the old Adam resists. The old self is confronted here by a forgiving God who asks us to go and do likewise. Jesus says that we are to go to the ones who are lost. We are to seek to win back those who hurt us (See Matthew 18:15-20) and to offer them forgiveness not one time or 70 times but 7 times 70 times.


walk2write said...

What if you hear the words "I forgive you" from the one you love, but you don't see forgiveness in his actions, attitude, or words about you to other people?

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

You're wrestling with a really meaty question here. By faith we know that God forgives; but our experience of other humans is very different than our experience of God.

Jesus says he wants us to forgive 70 times 7 times. And he knows what it really costs to forgive. Most of the time we don't want to face the price. His cross proves that real forgiveness comes at very high price. The hard part in human relationships is admitting that real price. Its easy to say "I forgive" but there's a real price in letting go of the hurt and seeking restoration for a damaged relationship. It amazes me how much is really given up by those who truly forgive someone who has hurt them. The freedom that comes from forgiving is priceless but the cost along the way is total.

A wise pastor introduced me to a very helpful way of looking at forgiveness a few years ago. He found it in the book Women Who Run With Wolves the author described a spectrum of forgiveness.
Step one is forbearing: naming the hurt and the pain another has caused or that we have caused.
Step two is forsaking: leaving behind our attempts to get even or fix the other person to our own advantage.
Step three is forgiving: forgiveness in my experience is often fleeting. The bigger the loss or hurt the more difficult it is to let go of that hurt or loss. Jesus invitation is to do something radical. He's inviting us to start the relationship over not once or twice but more times than we can count.
Step four is forgetting: in time some of the small things may be forgotten; but some of the truly great losses may not be forgotten in this life.

Blessings to you; may Christ guide you into true freedom.