Genesis 50: 15-21 Matthew 18:21-35
The word that kept coming back to me as I read and pondered these bible passages was forgiveness – and what does it mean.
Well, I think it has little to do with human fairness, our humanity often demands an eye for an eye, or we make excuses, which means brushing something under the carpet. Forgiveness is a word packed with undercurrents, emotion, and it is complex. It is not often, even easy to say sorry, let alone actually mean it and forgive. To forgive is not to forget, and often when someone has hurt us, we can’t help but keep going back and revisiting the hurt, which is ok, but not if it means that resentment builds up because then, it is even harder to forgive.
God calls us to be at peace with our family, friends, neighbours and strangers. We don’t have to like them, but we do need to choose to love them, and without being a doormat, we need to choose to be at peace with all.
Now I know that it’s not always possible, but it is the best, safest, and less anxious way to live. When someone hurts us or offends us, it is ok to speak to them and try and work it out, but at the end of the day, God has forgiven us a great debt, so we need to offer forgiveness to others and live, if possible, at peace with them.
Sometimes it’s not possible to do because the other person just will not do their bit, but Paul says, ‘if it is possible, so far as it depends on you’. We can choose to do the right thing but we don’t have control over others.
I wonder is there someone you need to make peace with?… If there is, the best thing to do is to start by praying, asking God to help and guide you.
It takes a level of trust to forgive, we can see that illustrated in our reading from Genesis.
Is there anyone who doesn’t remember the story of Joseph and his brothers….so let’s retell it very quickly, what are the salient points? [favouritism, selling him off, working for Potiphar’s wife, prison, release, saving the people from starvation, Joseph forgiving his brothers….]
The brothers who wronged Joseph still desperately need his mercy. As a great ruler of Egypt, he had the power to execute them. The brothers did not understand 2 things about Joseph:
1] his faith in God and the fact that he never thought of himself as in the place of God. For Joseph only God is always in the place of God. Does that make sense?
2] Joseph had truly forgiven his brothers and he knew that what they had meant for harm, God had intended for good.
Let’s turn our attention to the gospel passage. In the rabbinical tradition if someone committed an offence, they would only be forgiven for that same offence up to 3 times. So when Peter said to Jesus “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Peter thought he was being incredibly generous but he hadn’t counted on the mercy of God. Jesus tells Peter, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
Seven is the number of completion or fullness, so Jesus was really saying indefinitely. Then Jesus tells this parable that is really over the top to make a point.
The servant’s debt was the equivalent to trillions, so to plead for time to repay the debt is laughable, it just couldn’t have been done. So, the king had a choice, either to sell the man and his family into slavery, but still not get his money back, or forgive him and write the debt off. Which is what he decided to do.
However, the servant is ungrateful and demands payment of a small debt owed to him.
This story reminds us that the debt we owe God is far beyond our ability to repay. If there had been another way, don’t you think God would have spared his son the pain of torture and betrayal…
It was the only way that the debt, our debt could be paid. And that is the reason we must choose to forgive and keep choosing until we know it’s done.
Both of these readings highlight the importance of seeing ourselves in the light of God’s goodness when we are challenged to forgive.
I want to talk about one more thing, something that maybe is even harder than forgiving but is for our benefit, if only we can do it.
And that is letting go…… it can be the hardest thing to do. Letting go of the pain and hurt, the frustration. Not being able to be entirely at peace because of an unresolved situation. Often caused by the other party not acknowledging their part in the disagreement. Sometimes we can’t seem to let go because there doesn’t feel that there is any closure, maybe we will never know the truth of something that happened, so we find it impossible to let go.
But God, is the God of the impossible, and so I believe, that we need to persevere in forgiveness and letting go, and trust in God’s love and mercy that one day we will be free from the consequences.
Let us pray…………