Summary: We forgive others because God has forgiven us for so much.
Forgiveness part 2 October 3, 1999
I was to see my dentist last week, and once again he reminded me that I should floss my teeth daily. I told him that I always floss for a time after I’ve visited him, and then I get out of the habit, and then I have an appointment and he reminds me and I begin again. He said that he’ll keep up his responsibility and remind me and I should keep up mine and floss. And then he reminded me that If I wanted to have my teeth when I get older, I needed to floss now.
That is why I am preaching on forgiveness once again - to remind you that you need to do it! Although you teeth are very important, and flossing will save your teeth. forgiveness will save you soul!
Last week I began with the story of a woman who was struggling with forgiving the man who shot and paralyzed her. We learned that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us, and we learned that forgiveness is hard. When we speak of situations like this - a terrible crime, it is often easy to talk about forgiveness, but the reality is that it might be easier to forgive the stranger who has harmed us, because we may never have to see them again, but Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer hits us where it hurts - forgiving the people we are close to.
Jesus has just given some teaching on confronting a church member who has sinned against you, and Peter comes and asks him, “How many times must I forgive? Isn’t seven times enough?”
I don’t think that Peter was asking an abstract question here. I bet you that there was one of the disciples who was driving him nuts, maybe even his own brother Andrew! Peter has had it up to here, and he now wants the right to stay angry, to not forgive, to hold the wrong against his brother. He is being quite gracious, or so he thinks: The Rabbis taught that you had to forgive your brother or sister for a wrong, only three times, and then they had gone too far, three strikes and your out. Peter, says he is will to go as far as seven times! Isn’t that enough? Jesus says no, you must forgive your friend seventy times seven!
I don’t think that Jesus meant that Peter should count up to 490 times forgiving this person, and then cut him off, Jesus just picked a very large number to say that we need to forgive over and over again. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that true love "keeps no record of wrongs." Psalm 130 says of God: "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?" If we are to be Godly people, like God, we must not keep track of the times that we forgive. If we do, it is not true forgiveness.
But it is easy to keep count for those we are closest to, isn’t it? There’s the old story of the man who says to the marriage counselor, "Every time we have an argument, she gets historical!" We like to bring up the past. I know a couple who have been married almost 40 years, and she just told me about an argument they had when they were married only six months, and the pain from that argument was never dealt with, so it keeps coming up again and again. The people with whom we are closest are the people that we usually need to forgive the most.