“How often must I forgive?”, Peter asked Jesus, “as many as seven times?” So begins today’s (Thursday) Gospel reading from Matthew (chapter 18:21 and following).
Jesus responds, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
In other words, Jesus tells Peter, ‘there is no limit to forgiveness’. Jesus follows up his response with a parable about a king, when ‘moved with compassion’, forgives an enormous debt of one of his subjects. There is no way the subject would ever be able to pay him back, and he knows it. He forgives the servant anyway.
Jesus’ response is a reason for hope. As he teaches us how we should treat each other, it is because God has chosen this means when dealing with us. Do we deserve to be forgiven? Yet, the Lord accepts us, knowing how far we are from perfection and how often we will fall, many times due to the same fault. Yet, God insists on picking us back up, dusting us off and sending us on our way.
As followers of such a benevolent, forgiving God, we are called to respond in like fashion. Jesus continues in the parable to teach how we should respond. The servant who had just been forgiven a enormous debt, holds a fellow-servant in bondage for a much smaller debt. He is not like the good king who was moved with compassion.
The compassion of God, our good King, should make us want to entrust our hearts to Him, and strive to avoid those things that lead us away from His love. We also can learn from his example, and become benevolent and compassionate towards others who ‘sin against us.’
Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.