Then Peter came and said to him, “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 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
This is a small segment from the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35. Yet, if one would fully read the text, they may find that failure to forgive, or give a second chance is not just something God frowns upon. No, in the Gospel story from Matthew, failure to forgive can dig a massive gulf between God and us, and God and other people. See, if we take Jesus seriously, the parable is not merely stating that God wishes we would be a little bit better with our forgiveness. No, we shall be the embodiment of a complete and divine type of forgiveness. We shall forgive 77 times, a holy and complete forgiveness. If we cannot be forgiving, show mercy, or give a second chance, in this parable, the king sends the worker who is unmerciful to prison to be tortured. Now, what kind of place does that sound like to you? I know what it sounds like to me, not good.
We can know that Jesus invitation to forgive is enormously serious, so much so that he presses the limits to underline the consequences for the faithful if they are unwilling to forgive. When we lack the ability to forgive, it is as if, we have been thrown into a prison of our own doing, which sucks the life out of us until there is nothing left to give. See, not being able to forgive is like a prison that we make for ourselves. That is why the text demands that we shall forgive others, because if we cannot it will cost us more than we can pay. That is why it is important to forgive, but it is hard to forget.
Yet, Jesus makes it clear that we shall not hold a grudge, or that we shall not seek revenge, because, our behavior shall make it obvious to others who God is, and what God is like. That God’s forgiveness is unconditional, just like our forgiveness.
The good news can be, the more we can forgive, the more the world becomes forgiving place, and we all can know that this world needs more forgiveness.
In the end we all are given a second chance because of God’s willingness to forgive, and that is something we can celebrate on this day.
In Jesus name,