Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Oops! Here it is again. Forgiveness. Or the real and potential lack of it: Unforgiveness. As I read for probably the “umpteenth time” Peter’s self-proclamation of spiritual excellence by aspiration to forgive up to seven times it occurred to me that if we are keeping a shot chart we are probably in failure mode anyway. I mean really? If I am looking at the bean jar and see that this clown only has one bean left, then he had best toe the line, for after that I am licensed to cultivate bitterness in my heart by harboring unforgiveness for repeat offenses. Now that really makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I trust my sarcasm is apparent.
Jesus moves beyond the ordinary sized “bean jar” and makes us calculate not by addition and subtraction of beans, but by multiplication: 7 x 70 = 490, and that means I am assured to lose count and will have likely forgotten the original offense anyway, so let’s just forget the whole blooming thing! Maybe that’s the point?
CS Lewis talks a lot of this in his life struggles and in his works: Mastery of forgiveness of the offense and of the offender is a given when once it is done, on that initial occasion that grace is discovered, but when it is convenient to dredge it up again to utilize the offense for manipulative purposes in the present, that original offense reoccurs in the mind just as real and readily as before. Lewis then accurately identifies the quality of “re-forgiveness required to be just as real as the original forgiveness because just as much grace is demanded to satisfy our sinful hearts as before. You did not think your flesh had improved in the last few weeks did you? Not hardly. Lewis was especially helpful to me to be watchful for the “replaying” of previous offenses whenever I find myself idle or it seems convenient such as when I encounter an occasional friend who challenges my grace of love and forgiveness. The tendency is to immediately run back in my mind and say to Self, “Do you remember when!?” And we justify our coolness of response for his previous offensive word, deed or attitude. There are real life struggles here for offenses are experienced every day. They are in my world anyway.
Thoughts & Recs:
- Burn the Shot Charts and Accounting Ledgers… They are only good if you desire to feed bitterness and to ensure YOU fall into painful heartache. In fact I would say that if we are holding onto an account of offenses we are not truly forgiving by turning over the offender to the Almighty to be the one who recompenses: we are desirous to reserve the right of retribution if and when required and convenient. Remember: “Vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay.” Biblical forgiveness liberates us from having to fix the wayward wanderer. Our forgiveness may very well mean in a real and painful sense that we hand the scope and rifle to God and say, “Here, you take the shot.” “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful…”
- Remember the standard: “Be kind toward one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
- We are all debtors to grace. If we believe we are better than the caught sinner we lie to ourselves and have a “Pharisee-complex”.
- The presumption in Peter’s hypothetical is that “brothers sin” against one another. Don’t be shocked, but good men have bad fights. It happens. Remember Forrest Gump as he ran? “It happens.” Yep. Got several Tees and some folks we do well to simply stay away from, even brethren. Let’s pray for them and love them from a distance. I have no doubt that Paul loved Barnabas and Barnabas loved Paul, but their ministry philosophy seemed to be at an impasse. That happens. That doesn’t mean these guys are against one another. God simply has them in different fields.
- Now. How about a time-out? “Take 5” and quietly sit alone without phone or distraction and truly ask God to reveal all those you are embittered against. “Making a list, and checking it twice.” Then deal with it however He leads.
- Review the “one another” commands in the New Testament, and figure out how the heck to practically implement them. Positive action of “faith working through love” has a way of removing offenses and squelching future occasions for sin. It’s hard to hate on someone you are serving with.
I noted with interest in my “one another” search that the first “one another” in the epistles deals with love and preference to one another, and the final reference speaks of the judgment of God upon unrepentant man as we devour “one another”. There could be a subliminal message there? Just kidding… or maybe not? Some segments of society are excelling at the latter scriptural observation, yet we as believers are guilty too of lagging in diligent love toward one another. Our goal ought be to out do one another in love to His glory by His grace. Then “the world will know we are His disciples when we have live one for the other.”
May the Lord help us to heed His holy, sufficient and relevant word today, and speedily at that. Don’t you sense time is short? I do.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…” Rom 12:10-11
“And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.” Rev 6:4