In all honesty, this post should have come before any others about building a peaceful world as forgiveness is the cornerstone of Christian belief and arguably the first, most essential ingredient in building a better more peaceful world.
I got to thinking about forgiveness this week when I was watching the awful story about the USA gymnastics doctor and decades long sexual predator Larry Nassar. In viewing the fallout from this story and the vituperative comments by the judge. I got to thinking about how difficult it is to forgive and yet, how critical it is for our world. I am not criticizing the lack of forgiveness on the part of some of the victims. I don’t think it sinful to not be able to forgive, that’s simply human. I do think it sinful to not want to forgive and it is incumbent upon all the faithful to absolutely want to forgive.
It is only through forgiveness that we can truly move on from the hurt that others cause us. It is only through forgiveness that we can see past the violence and hatred that mark much of society and so entraps us in cycles of hateful action and reaction. Unless we can forgive, we will likely fall into this trap of action and reaction.
How can we strive for less than Jesus in this matter? It is true that He teaches that repentance is necessary for God to forgive sinners, it is also true that He offers forgiveness unconditionally. This is never truer than in His prayer from the Cross in Luke 23:34. This is for me the moment when Jesus becomes the Christ. He prays for God to forgive those who are at that very moment murdering Him. While those murderers may not be repentant, Jesus offers a prayer of forgiveness anyway. This is the gold standard of forgiveness that we must emulate if we are to have any hope of building up His Kingdom.
There is an additional passage that I think brings this concept of forgiveness into even sharper relief and that is Matthew 18: 21-22. I am profoundly indebted to my former Pastor who gave me these insights in what is still to date the greatest sermon I have ever heard. In this passage, Peter asks Jesus how often we should forgive and suggests 7 as the number. It is important to understand that at the time rabbis taught that 3 times was forgiveness enough. This was based upon Amos 1:3-13. So, Peter probably figured that doubling this and adding one was a pretty good answer.
In fact, it was probably a better answer than Peter thought. The numerology of the time held that 7 was a very significant number because it represented spiritual perfection. This was so because God rested on the 7th. day. 7 becomes a number denoting completion or even perhaps infinity. So, for Peter, usually chief among the duh-sciples, this is a not bad answer at all. Yet Jesus corrects Peter and says, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times”. Jesus adds another 7 to Peter’s answer, the number that signifies perfection, completeness and infinity.
This answer is stunning! The meaning cannot be clearer and therefore scary as hell for us to contemplate. What Jesus is challenging us to is a standard of forgiveness that is absolute and never-ending. So, in the end what is the standard of forgiveness that Jesus sets for us? How many times are we to forgive? One more time than we think we ought to. There shall be our peace.
Praise Be to God