forgiveness

Category : Jesus, Matthew, bible, different, hope, living a life of faith

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Think for a moment about someone you really dislike.  Maybe you even hate them.  Maybe they’ve hurt you.  Maybe they’ve lied to you.  Or maybe you just find them annoying.  Are you thinking about them?  Good.  Now what are the first three things that pop into your head?  Is one of them forgiveness?  Because it should be.

Forgiveness.  That’s not something I like to even think about, let alone do.  I have a very hard time backing down from arguments.  I like to be right, and I’m not afraid to fight to be seen as “right.”  So when someone does something that harms me, I have a hard time letting go.

R3 focuses a lot on the idea of living out your faith.  And for a Christian, forgiveness is a major part of that life.  But I really struggle with it.  Intellectually I understand what’s going on.  I even get why God would ask us to do it.  But it’s just hard to pull the trigger on forgiveness.  It’s so much easier to hate.

That’s why I find Jesus’ interaction with Peter so interesting.  And scary.

Jesus radically raises the bar for forgiveness.  When Peter asks him how many times he should forgive someone, Peter suggests seven would be a good number.  Now in Jewish culture you were obligated to forgive someone 3 times.  So Peter was going above and beyond what was expected.  Plus, he chose the number 7 knowing full well that in Jewish culture it  implied a “completeness”.  Peter was trying to say he would forgive someone a lot, more than maybe anyone else.  He thought he was doing something good, going way above and beyond his duty as a Jew.

But this still wasn’t what Jesus was looking for.  Jesus isn’t interested in us “trying harder.”  He’s interested in our lives radically changing.  So he told Peter, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  Jesus wanted to make the point that there isn’t some magical number you hit and then you’re “good.”  Instead, it’s about changing your heart and aligning yourself with God’s forgiving nature.

In the end it was Peter who ultimately needed to receive that forgiveness which Jesus spoke of.  As Jesus was lead away by authorities, Peter had a chance to show support, all he had to do was simply say he knew Jesus.  Yet three times Peter denied even knowing him.  Peter abandoned Jesus when Jesus needed a friend the most.  Yet Jesus still forgave Peter, and actually went on to use him to build the Jerusalem church.

I may never figure out how to forgive people 77 times.  I may only be able to do it once.  But I am grateful that God is forgiving.  Because I know  I certainly need it.  And maybe, right now, the best thing I can do is simply struggle with the idea of forgiveness.  Maybe it’s that struggle in applying Jesus’ teachings to our lives that ultimately builds our faith.  And in turn, allows us to forgive 77 times.

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