Friday, 12 August 2022
"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” -Matthew 18:21-22
Many of us would agree that forgiving someone is not so easy especially when some kind of hurt or the other has been caused by unkind words or actions by another. But equally true is the fact that knowingly or not we would have become the cause of hurt to someone else through our actions or words! May it be colleagues, family, brothers/sisters, the physical or emotional hurt would have left behind wounds, scars, bad memories with long standing feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance. Our reading today takes us to a deeper understanding on how to respond when someone wrongs us.
Our key verses, a question by Peter and the answer given by Jesus have two numbers- 7 is the number of perfection and 70 times 7 shows the most perfect way of forgiveness. In Jesus’ answer and the parable that ensues, is the clue to true forgiveness- it is not in the number of times you forgive but how you forgive others – from the heart (V.35).
For many it is difficult to forgive as the harm done to them has lasting impact and cannot easily be forgotten and if the harm has to do with helpless ones like children. Yet forgiveness is one of the main qualities of a Christ-centred person. There is no match to the example Jesus portrayed about forgiveness both in his life and death. On the Cross He forgave those who spitefully hurt him both physically and emotionally. To forgive, we need a change from the negative unforgiving attitude and emotions to the more positive ones of mercy and pardon, so that our mind can catch up with our heart.
Forgiving others, is a willful decision and an action that occurs under the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit. When we practice forgiveness, we show compassion and exhibit love towards our transgressors, possible only by the help of the Holy Spirit – “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matt.5:44).
The parable in our reading gives us the understanding that we have been forgiven and reconciled by God who forgave us the huge debt of our sin. A constant remembrance of this truth motivates us and enables us to forgive. Jesus teaches us that there are to be no limitations on the extent of forgiveness; we should forgive because we have been forgiven unconditionally. The lack of forgiveness breeds hatred and it can never reflect God’s glory, His will or His love. Just as God forgives us over and over again, Jesus teaches us to forgive others. In forgiving others, we must let go of every resentment and give up any right to be compensated for the hurt we have suffered. Unselfish love, the marks of which are portrayed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is the basis of true forgiveness. 1 Cor.13: 5 says Love… keeps no record of wrongs.
No one is perfect- in all of our lifetime, it’s only by the help of the Holy Spirit we withstand the temptations and pressures of life. Hence, let’s surrender ourselves to God completely and have a “let go” attitude for those who have and continue to hurt us which is a testimony that brings glory to God. And as the summing up of the parable suggests the consequence of our unforgiveness: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” –we understand that our forgiving others, helps our own sins and mistakes to be forgiven by our Heavenly Father.
To pray meaningfully: Heavenly Father, “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” (Matthew 6:12)