Saturday, January 27

Forgiveness is Crazy!

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy time seven!”

I have to admit… every time I read this, it sounds like the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s hard enough to forgive someone once, if the offense is bad enough. And Peter seems to be going above and beyond by offering forgiveness seven times… but Jesus says, “Nope… can’t stop there. Every time you’re offended… even if you lose count… you must offer forgiveness.” Whoa.

He then goes on to tell a story about a man who was in debt some millions of dollars to his employer (I mean, what kind of employer/employee relationship did they have?). He couldn’t afford to pay back the money, so his boss was going to have him – and his entire family – sold as slaves until the money could be repaid. But the man begged and pleaded with his boss... the boss had pity on him; then he released the man from his debt (wow… I might try that little crying routine to get released from my car note!)

So this guy turns around, and hems up his friend who owed him a couple hundred dollars (a lot of money in my book). His friends see what happened, and they tell “Boss Man” about it. The boss gets angry, calls in the man, and says, “You wicked man, you!! (my translation) I released you from that humongous debt of yours, because you cried like a little baby… and I took pity on you. And you have the audacity to go medieval on somebody else who owes you money???” So, Boss Man sent the guy to prison until his entire debt could be paid back.

Here’s the point of Jesus’ story: as sinful human beings, we have been forgiven much – if we’ve placed our trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have sinned against a holy God, and we owed a debt that we could not repay; but, Jesus paid all of it for us by dying for us on the Cross. And even as we still often blow it and sin against God every day, Jesus’ words from the Cross still rings out, “Father, forgive them… for they don’t understand what they’re doing.” Yet, how often do we fail (better, refuse) to release the people in our lives for the things they do to us? And when we take the stance of non-forgiveness, it shows just how much we do not understand the Cross… or God’s grace. Because when we see ourselves for who we really are – and what we really deserve - we know that it’s only because of the grace and mercy of God that we’re no longer bound for an eternal hell.

“Seventy times seven,” Jesus says. “Stop counting offenses.” That’s a hard word… especially when the relationship is more than a casual one. But unconditional love doesn’t keep track of wrongs, does it? “Love is patient and kind… It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged” (1 Cor. 13:4-5). Crazy? Seems like it… but it’s the way of Jesus… and it must be the way of anyone who follows Him. No wonder He said, “If anyone wants to follow Me, he must… take up his cross…”

Crosses and forgiveness go together… you can’t have one without the other.

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