Summary: Message from the Sermon on the Mount about Forgiveness
Title: Measure of Forgiveness
Text: Matthew 6:12,14-15
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Max Lucado, “In the Grip of Grace”
Each week Kevin Tunell is required to mail a dollar to a family he’d rather forget. They sued him for 1.5 million but settled for $936, to be paid a dollar a time. The family expects the payment each Friday so Tunell won’t forget what happened on the first Friday of 1982.
That’s the day their daughter was killed. Tunell was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving. He was seventeen at the time. She was eighteen. Tunell served a court sentence. He also spent seven years campaigning against drunk driving, six years more than his sentence required. But he keeps forgetting to send the dollar.
The weekly restitution is to last until the year 2000. Tunell makes the check out to the victim, mails it to her family, and the money is deposited in a scholarship.
The family has taken him to court four times for failure to comply. After the most recent appearance, Tunell spent thirty days in jail. He insist that he’s not defying the order but rather is haunted by the girl’s death and tormented by the reminders. He offered the family two boxes of checks covering the payments until the year 2001, one year more than required. They refused. It’s not the money they seek, but penance.
Quoting the mother, “We want to receive the check every week on time. He must understand we are going to pursue this until August of the year 2000. We will go back to court every month if we have to”.
Few have questioned the anger of the family. Only the naïve would think it fair to leave the guilty unpunished. But I do have one concern. Is 936 payments enough? Not for Tunell to send, mind you, but for the family to demand? When they receive the final payment, will they be at peace? In August 2000, will the family be able to put the matter to rest? Is eighteen years’ worth of restitution sufficient? Will 196 months worth of remorse be adequate?
We have all been hurt
Not one of us will ever make it through life free of injury. Someone somewhere has hurt you or will hurt you. We have all been a victim. The victim here died because someone drank too much but many people die because someone spoke too much, demanded too much, or neglected too much.
The question we must ask ourselves is how much payment is enough? When can we say, “Ok you have done enough or time is up” let me forgive. Many people go through life with hurt and pain that has been caused by another. Their whole life now has been aimed at getting back at them.
Never wanting to let them forget the pain they caused. Holding on to past hurts and injury. “As long as I suffer, you suffer. As long as I hurt, you hurt. You cut me, and I’m going to maker you feel bad as long as I bleed, even if I have to reopen the wound myself.”
Over and over we carry this in our heart. Every chance we get to get back at the person whether it is to their face or to others, whether it is in casual conversation or on the subject, we take it. Soon it numbs the pain of being hurt. Actually we come to enjoy it even though we annoy others with our constant bickering and complaining about what so and so did. Soon hurt becomes hate and hate becomes rage. We become addicted to criticism looking for the next fix on the next person who hurts us even if it was unintentional.
The question we ask is, “How will the score be settled? How do I break the cycle? How many payments do I demand? Peter asked a similar question to Jesus
Peter’s forgiveness question
Master, how often to I forgive my brother who hurts me? Seven? (Matthew 18:21 MSG)
Peter was worried about over-forgiving an offender. (If there is such a thing.) The Jewish law stipulated that the wounded forgive three times. Peter was willing to double that and add a little extra for good measure. No doubt he thinks that Jesus is impressed. Jesus is not. He answers, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven” (vs. 22 MSG).
If you have already figured that to be 490 times then you have missed the points. He is not telling us to keep tabs on mercy. He is telling us that mercy in not based on a number but on grace.