Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost — September 17, 2017
A Trait with Which We Struggle
“Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Peter asks what feels like a loaded question. It is one we ask ourselves on a continual basis—probably because we want the answer to change. We want Jesus to say that if someone continually hurts us, it’s OK to write them off. It’s OK to say, “That’s it, I’m done with you.” It’s OK to hold a grudge, to withhold forgiveness for the rest of our lives. But that’s not what Jesus says.
Jesus has just explained to the disciples the lengths to which they are to go to try to find reconciliation in the church when one sins against another. He doubles up on his point by explaining to Peter, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Some translations even up the ante by translating it “seventy times seven.”)
We are not to grow weary in showing forgiveness—because God never wearies of forgiving us. Every time we come to God to ask for forgiveness, if we truly repent in our hearts, we are given it. Every time. Just as we have been forgiven, we are then to show forgiveness to others. Jesus illustrates that point by telling a parable about the consequences of not forgiving.
Forgiveness is a trait of disciples of Christ. It is a trait with which we may struggle, especially if the sin against us is one that cuts deep to our core. Yet, in Jesus, we see the lengths to which God will go to ensure our own forgiveness. Are we willing to let go of our own pain, in order to offer the grace of forgiveness we’ve experienced to those who have sinned against us?
Beth Rohn-Habhegger, pastor, Canaan Moravian Church, Davenport, North Dakota