How often should I forgive?
but it reaches deeply into the relationship of men before God.
—Gerhard von Rad
In tomorrow's Gospel reading Peter asks 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." Then he tells a parable of a man forgiven of an enormous debt who is unforgiving to one who owes him much less. Jesus concludes by admonishing his followers to "forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
Katerina Whitley has preached on this parable saying,
The king in the parable acts with magnanimity and compassion. When the slave begs to be forgiven the debt and not to be sold, the king releases him and forgives the whole debt, which is enormous. The problem comes when the man who is forgiven does not have the same grace and compassion toward those who are indebted to him. This parable makes tangible the meaning of the pleading in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”The full text of her sermon is online here: Real Forgiveness
Like so much else in the life of faith, it is a paradox. God cannot forgive us until we forgive others. Instead of the Creator initiating the act, it is the creature who must make the first move in forgiveness. This is the only obstacle to God’s forgiveness: our own refusal to forgive.
Forgiveness is much more beneficial to the one who forgives than to the one who is forgiven. All of us know that this is not just theory but understand its truth from experience. Jesus told it as a story that fitted the context of his time. Centuries later, human understanding of emotions would assert this in psychology: forgiving, letting go of feelings of revenge and retribution, is a potent healing act.
As individuals, most of us have experienced the great release of being able to forgive. It has nothing to do with sentiment; it is a powerful act of will.
In the archives is the religion column Forgiving means forgetting and other forgiveness myths.
your Heavenly Father will Also forgive you.
—Jesus (Matthew 6:14)