Merry Christmas! There are times when something clicks in your head when you weren’t even thinking about it. That’s the Holy Spirit.
I have different volumes on the Tobii for how loud I need to yell at the kids. If I’m upset or they have done something terrible, it stays loud. If I need to converse to have a teaching moment, it’s soft. Usually, the older children will get reasoning and the softer volume.
The other morning I had to lower some tension, and I was reasoning with one of the kids. Forgiveness came up, in the context of past actions that still rankle, but aren’t really relevant to the immediate situation. You know, the “always does x” complaint. Being a sanctimonious b*st*rd, I immediately thought of the Bible when Peter asked how many times he should forgive his brother. And as I typed it in, I got the click.
Let me begin by expressing that I am a hypocrite and do not do what I am talking about here. I’m not an example you want to follow, but I am willing to try and also express what little I have learned so that better people can use it if needed. Now that is out of the way…
21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 [c]Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Seems legit, right? If someone sins against you seventy-seven times and asks forgiveness, then you have to forgive them. I’m pretty sure that won’t happen, so this number is comfortably above the line. That seventy-eighth time, though, that will be the end! There will be hell to pay!
But of course what clicked was an old Lanky Guys podcast and this Gospel, and some of what is going on in the world. So let me explore.
To start with, there are two major components at play. The first is asking for forgiveness, which is often overlooked in today’s age. One of the key components of repentance is a determination to change the behavior, a firm purpose of amendment. Without this, you aren’t really sorry. Let’s put it in terms of Kanye West, he’s changing his actions and sayings based on his repentance. We owe it to him and others like him to accept the actions at face value. What it comes down to is that there are no permanent or unforgivable sins, if someone repents. Kid out of wedlock? Even an abortion? Yup.
Let’s use politicians as an example. Dudes are never forgiven for anything, and then everyone else uses someone doing something wrong as justification for someone else doing. Or blatantly ignore the dreadful behavior because it doesn’t fit the narrative. Politics gives me the heebie-jeebies! And they never apologize, because if they do they will never be forgiven. If politicians would repent more and bloviate less, people might trust them.
But I digress. Repentance, asking for forgiveness. At some point, we are expected to forgive others. In the “Our Father”, we ask for forgiveness AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS! So if I don’t forgive, why would God forgive me?? Let that sink in for a tiny bit.
Then, Ted Sri wrote about the crucifixion and a meditation on it. Even as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he forgave. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!” Think about this. The executioners did know they were committing deicide. They didn’t until the centurion pierced Jesus’ heart. But Jesus wasn’t only forgiving the soldiers, but the Jews as well. They saw the miracles, they heard the claim of Divinity, but they were so blinded by trying to make their rules and viewpoints overthrown that they blindly called for the execution. Jesus even forgave them.
Which brings us back to the whole forgive my brother thing. Don’t confuse the number seventy-seven with a quantity. They referred to numbers as qualitative. For example, the number seven signifies fullness and completion. It meant perfection. Six represented imperfection, incompleteness. So when Jesus says Seventy-seven times, he’s referencing the perfect forgiveness, the extra extra extra forgiveness. Wow!
I can’t say that He meant to be a weakling or that repentance is unnecessary because Jesus always called everyone to repentance. Think of the good thief, who realized his error and asked for pardon. Did the other thief get the same treatment? It doesn’t look like it. So with that in mind, the paradox of Christianity. We must forgive everyone even if they don’t ask for it, but we and they must repent. Jesus forgives, but we have to choose to accept it. If we don’t choose to repent, Jesus is not going to force us to accept his forgiveness!
I’m terrible at it. My temper remembers, and I have to work hard to accept the grace that God is trying to give me!
Lastly, Reader-land, the Bible is replete with forgiveness and mercy. Lest we forget, Christmas was so incredible that the angels would not be silent! Luke chapter 2:
8 [d]Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. 9 The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 [e]For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
14 [f]“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The good news is that Jesus became man to save us from sin! How often do we hear the forgiveness in that very action? The whole point is to forgive. But, Reader-land, forgiveness and repentance require a change in US, not God.
And that is my Christmas meditation. Merry Christmas!