10 September 2011

How Many Times Shall I Forgive My Brother, Up To 7 Times?

Peter, ever looking for a way to satisfy the rules Peter, asks his question in a way that does two things. It lets him know when he can go back to not forgiving. It also lets him look good, he is willing to forgive, as long as the jerk who offends him takes him up on the offer correctly(!)

If we look at ourselves in the mirror, what do we see? Are we Peter like?

In Mathew 18 we have his response. "22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." or depending on translation, "22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times." Somewhere, I fear, someone has been counting the 490 times that Jesus responds to Peter citing as the correct number. Either number of course is intended to be not a limit but a move towards infinity. No one who is marginally rational would count the number of times he forgave someone past seventy! Or so, at least Jesus seems to say.

It is hard, forgiveness. Those who have left the Christian community to worship the Bible often tell us that to be forgiven one must repent. That is wrong. Rather, to realize the benefits of forgiveness, the sinner must repent. Our benefit, if we are the wounded one, if we have been sinned against (and as Jesus understood when he taught us to pray, that happens!) comes not from the sinner's act of repentance but from our act of forgiveness.

So where are we in the counting to 490 or 77, or infinite? How often have you prayed in the last ten years for Osama bin Laden and his followers? Jesus did not tell us to pray for our friends. He told us we already did that and it is good. But he commanded us to pray for our enemies. How are you doing on those 490 times?

Here is my prayer for 9/11
Lord God, King of the Universe, I bless and thank you for the goodness of your creation and the ministry of your son. I commend to your mercy the brave men and women who lost their lives in the attacks of September 11th. Comfort those who loved them with the knowledge of your grace, and justified pride in their courage. Look also, I pray, on those who failed in the life you granted them falling into violence and murder. Grant that they may come to a new understanding of your will and their actions.


Seventy times seven times. Starting now?

1 comment:

Christal said...

I'll be lucky if I can forgive 7 times, let alone 70 times 7. It is a very difficult thing, but even harder to forgive someone who has robbed you of a loved one. Your prayer was beautifully written and appropriately dedicated, Dad.

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