The Problem With Forgiveness
I can relate to Peter, the disciple of Jesus, because Peter’s hang-ups seem to be similar to my own. In Matthew 18 Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
The clue to why Peter asks this can be found in the context. Jesus has been talking about sin in the church and sheep who wander away so I am fairly certain that one of these wayward sheep had offended Peter. Peter, feeling rather good about himself, suggests that he might be willing to forgive the offender seven times.
Peter’s self-congratulatory question raises a problem with forgiveness – we don’t really want to forgive others. Our reluctance increases when we know that we are right and when the offender has not yet come clean. Our unwillingness to forgive is echoed in the proverb “to err is human, to forgive divine.”
Mistakes are easy. Forgiveness is not easy. When we forgive, we surrender our right to make the other pay. Jesus blows Peter (and me) away when he answers Peter’s question about forgiveness. “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).
The problem with forgiveness is that we are called to do it. And keep doing it.
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership