Today I led the service and I think the reflection was the most significant part. So, the blog today is a shortened version of that. I will list the hymns too, because they added to the theme of “Forgiveness”.
Hymns: TIS 228 “Crown him with Many Crowns”; 655 “O, Let the son of God enfold you.”;129 “Amazing Grace”;136 “There's a widening in God’s Mercy”
The subject of today’s Gospel reading is “Forgiveness.”
Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone 7 times was enough. In this, he was being very generous because the Jewish law only required a person to forgive someone 3 times.
Jesus’ reply must have been quite a shock. Depending on which version of the Bible you have, it was “seventy times seven” or “seventy seven times”.
In either case, Jesus is saying that we should forgive way past the number of times we ever thought we should or ever could forgive.
In the same Bible reading we heard of the king whose slave owed him an unbelievable amount of money…something about equal to the size of the economy of some small countries.
But the king was a compassionate man and so when the slave pleaded with him, he didn't just give more time for repayment, he forgave the debt.
And so the slave realised what a gift he had been given and was grateful. He also learned a rich lesson on how to treat other people.
Or he should have but he didn't at all.
In this case where the offending person could not make restitution how could justice be reached? As in all similar cases, justice is obtained by a full and frank admission of guilt.
Look at that from the perspective of one person to another, living today.
But what if we have offended against another in some other way?
They may forgive us out of their own compassion but that forgiveness can't be fully effective unless we acknowledge our offence.
There are times when we would rather pretend that we didn't do anything much.
On the other side of the equation, if we are hurt, even if the offender fails to properly acknowledge the hurt, as Christians we are commanded to forgive them anyway.
I have also heard people say: “I can never forgive them!” Sorry, you, as a follower of Jesus are commanded to do just that, whether you have received an apology or not.
An experience I have had is that I have struggled to bring myself to forgive a person because I wanted justice.
Then I woke up and realised that I wasn't doing myself any good and was able to forgive for my own sake, only to find an enormous burden lifted from my shoulders.
But then an even more amazing change occurred! Suddenly I could see the situation from the perspective of the other person and realized that life is very complicated and that I had been nursing what seemed like a deliberate hurt from someone else for nothing.
But how can such a thing happen?
How can we, as a human, go from seeing someone else as offending us in some way to seeing them as guiltless in that same respect? It seems impossible.
And I think it is….until we hand over the situation to God.
This change of perspective comes when we, as the offended against, ask for God’s help and accept the spirit’s work of grace.
It takes the same work of grace for us to see our real guilt in any matter.
We as the offender can't expect forgiveness until, through grace, we are able to admit our guilt frankly.
Anything else does not bring about reconciliation….which is the true aim of confession on one side and forgiveness on the other.
But don't leave acting on this message for too long. In the Guardian in 2006, it was announced that all 306 British World War 1 soldiers who were executed for desertion or cowardice were to be pardoned. 88 years later. Don't wait even one day.