September 13, 2017
Freedom To Forgive
“Peter came and said to [Jesus], ‘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.’” -Matthew 18:21-22
As a Christian, I like to think of myself as a loving and forgiving person. But those closest to me know that view of myself is not quite accurate. I hold grudges. I find it hard to forgive. I find it hard to let go of things in my past. I find it hard to love some people. I am sure many people find it hard to love me.
Mitch Albon, the author of “Tuesdays With Morrie” also wrote a book entitled “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”.
I do not know much about Mr. Albon’s book. I do know I mess with the title and often joke that for many of us there are five people we hope NOT to meet in heaven. (Right now, you’re thinking of some people, aren’t you?)
My point is not so much that we are hateful people. My point is that we carry pain and scars from our past.
Not wanting to see certain people in heaven is not a cry of hate, it is a cry of pain.
That is where forgiveness comes in.
Many people believe ‘forgiveness’ means merely saying something like, “It’s okay. Let’s just forget about it.”
The actual word as it was used in the New Testament has the idea of ‘letting go’. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes forgiveness has the understanding “to send off, to hurl, to release, to let go, to let be.”
Forgiveness is letting go.
But the pain is still there.
Peter asks, “Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
Jesus answers, “No, seventy-seven times.” Some bibles record Jesus’ words as “Seventy times seven”. The actual number doesn’t seem to matter. The point is forgiveness needs to be ongoing.
And the pain is still there.
Which leads me to this observation. Maybe that’s why we need to forgive continually. The pain is still there. Letting go once won’t do it. We need to let go again and again and again.
At the center of this is the Christ. Christ has forgiven me again and again and again. In Christ, I am empowered to let go again and again.
Pastor Ricky Adams
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California