Then Peter came and said to him, 'Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
-- Matthew 18:21-22 (NRSV)
Forgiveness is a way of life for the Christian, and it is not an option. By forgiving the offender, the innocent party liberates him or her, lets them go free; this is what Jesus does in regard to our sins. Through Christ, God extended to sinful people this magnificent gift of forgiveness.
Knowing Peter's nature, I can imagine that, having asked the question, he waited to hear Jesus commend him for his generosity in having such great patience toward his enemy. It appears that Peter was not prepared for Jesus' answer. Jesus answered Peter with a story. It was a challenge addressed to Peter, to me and each one of us! It probes deeply into my heart and conscience and causes me to face the stabbing truth about this business of forgiveness and extending grace. I have learned true forgiveness is experienced only in relationship and is known only in reconciliation. When God forgives us, we are reconciled to God, and we begin to enjoy a fellowship with Him the world can never know or take away.
I strive diligently not be like the servant who had been greatly forgiven by the King with much grace. When he met a man who owed him, he did not extend any forgiveness or grace as the poor man begged, and was thrown into prison. Forgiveness is demanding as well as revealing. I believe that forgiveness means that one is able to love genuinely with a love that can go beyond the problem. This truth mirrors God's forgiveness toward us. God expects us as black and white Christians to manifest the same forgiveness toward each other that He has shown toward us. -- Rev. Ever J. Burt
Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for your forgiveness and grace daily. Amen.
Rev. Ever J. Burt is an elder in the Mississippi Conference serving the Dekalb Parish in the Meridian District.