Summary: Forgiveness is not about accepting that something wrong is somehow right, or trying to forget it: a prayerful reflection on Matthew 18.
Today I would like to say a few words about things in our lives that we carry and things that we let go.
I find today’s Gospel reading one of the most challenging in the Bible. With any apology, Jesus talks quite bluntly about the forgiveness God offers to us, and the expectation God has of us, as forgiven people. This is something we accept every time we pray our Lords prayer.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
God’s forgiveness is not an easy thing. .We are not instantly made perfect, but rather God accepts us as despite all our imperfections. God does not even offer us a means to pay for our sins, but forgiveness on his terms. I think this Gospel message would seem easier to people today if the King had given the servant some means of repaying the debt, some ability to stand on his own two feet. But the king does not offer any fair deal- he offers complete forgiveness because the servant asks for it. In the same way, God offers forgiveness to those who truly seek it. There is no easy bargain we can strike with God, you might even say, there is no sense of justice.
At some times in life, it is very difficult to believe of to feel that God really loves us at all, never mind forgives us. Most of us carry with us things we find hard to believe God can forgive. For some, the hardest thing of all is to forgive ourselves. But we do believe and trust that God is able to forgive us, no matter what we carry with us, even when we cannot forgive ourselves.
At other times, the hardest thing is to forgive others. Yet Jesus seems quite clear on this, we are to find ways to forgive others. You may find this a little strange, but I find it most difficult to offer forgiveness in situations and events which are beyond my control. Many events of recent years in the former Yugoslavia make me feel both angry and powerless, news and rumors of things done that should never be. Even though these things do not directly harm me or anyone I know, it is hard to think of this as a situation where God is able to offer forgiveness to every single person involved. Letting go of bitterness at such injustice is difficult, but we are challenged by God to do.
I do not believe that God somehow holds back his forgiveness until we forgive each any every thing done to us. Rather, it seems to be that in learning to forgive others, even when they do not deserve it, we begin unload our own burdens of bitterness and begin to know what it means to be at the receiving end of grace, the undeserved forgiveness of God.
So, we Pray for those caught up in a cycle of hatred, bitterness, or hurt …. be with them, lift their burden and let them to begin to live again.
We think of places of suffering and injustice where we are powerless to help, particularly the many tragedies unfolding in East Timor this week. We believe that you are God able to offer forgiveness to all, however terrible the crimes we hear of. Be with those who suffer at the hands of others, and be with us so very far away.