Sunday, September 11, 2011

Do I have to forgive THAT!?!?

Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? - Matthew 18:21a
This text is a text that makes us nervous or uncomfortable.  This verse is just the beginning of  quite a story that Jesus tells (go ahead, I’ll wait while you look it up and read it) - it contrasts beautifully the  the Christian life we know we SHOULD lead and the human life that often takes over. It’s a text that makes us squirm when we think about how many times we have asked ourselves this question that Peter asks.
The events of this day 10 years ago, September 11, 2001 certainly provide the background for us to think about this text and they should urge us to imagine this concept of forgiveness.
There always seems to be a need for forgiveness. A new offense occurs, a new fault is found, or an old wound is opened up...there is never a lack of opportunities to practice forgiveness.  Peter understands this and asks Jesus the question we have all asked a million times - just how many times do I have to forgive?
Peter knows he has to forgive but he’s looking for an out here.  He’s looking for a limit to what he has to do. He wants Jesus to tell him that at some point it’s ok to put your foot down and say NO! Enough is enough - I can’t - I won’t forgive THAT! 
Why is it so hard for us to forgive? Why do we hold on to grudges? We certainly don’t want to admit fault and it’s in our nature to want revenge, to make someone pay when we are hurt or frustrated or upset. We run out of pity for people who hurt us, people who are different from us, think different, act different...we would rather fight for self-protection or vindication than love someone in forgiveness.  In Christ, grace abounds FOR us.  Why does it not abound OUT of us??
We are faced every day with the torture of needing to forgive but being unable to. This parable forces us to examine our human nature and expose ourselves for what we are - humans.  Sinful humans in need of God’s grace.
It also forces us to imagine: to imagine how God’s unending grace breaks through the bleakest of circumstances, to imagine how even when we are out of forgiveness for one another, God is there forgiving us, to imagine how God desires to reconcile us with one another thru the power of God forgiving us first and we begin to imagine new hearts - full of mercy - that create the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation; with God and with one another.
When we consider the lengths Jesus went to to forgive us - the underserved suffering, persecution and execution - forgiveness between one another doesn’t seem so hard.
Imagine a world where there is no limit to forgiveness...where we just do it...because it’s the right thing to do. Where we forgive the little things such as a refusal to share a toy or someone cutting us off on the freeway. Imagine a world where we forgive the big things such as abuse, untruths or injustice.  And dare to imagine a world where we forgive the unspeakable things such as the events of 9/11, hate or war.
Jesus imagined such a world and he lived every day of his life trying to make it happen.  And he died so that it would...
Let us dare to imagine such a world...Amen.

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