THREE THEMES OF FORGIVENESS
IN MATTHEW 18:21-22
The pastor of the Stahlstown United Methodist Church Charge, the Rev. Audrey Bell, presented the message at the annual outdoor service at the Flax Scutching Festival (Stahlstown, Pennsylvania) on September 11, 2011. She presented a message on forgiveness based on Peter’s question to Jesus about forgiving seven times.
At the end of the service, she rang the bell four times, once each for the 8:46, 9:03, 9:37, and 10:03 events that occurred ten years ago on September 11, 2001.
In Peter’s day forgiveness was a three-times matter for the devout.
Peter came up to the Lord and asked, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?
Jesus answered: Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22, Contemporary English Version)
Jesus presented a new playing field, with numbers too large to keep score: seventy-seven, or in some Biblical versions, seventy times seven, or four hundred-ninety, according to the Rev. Audrey Bell, who said that this Scripture has three different themes.
First, forgiveness is always a personal matter (from personal experience) because pain is a personal matter. But at some time the hating must stop. When a person reaches this point, it is the moment of forgiveness.
Second, forgiveness is essentially one-sided, a unilateral choice. It is initiated by one party and it is often rejected by the second party. Forgiveness is not fair. It is mercy,. It does not negate justice, rather it relegates justice to a higher power.
However, when forgiveness is accepted by the second party it becomes two-sided. The result is reconciliation.
Third, forgiveness is not merely a one time event. It must be repeated to develop a character of a committed lifestyle. Furthermore, it is not done in isolation. Other people are looking on.
The goal of repeated forgiveness is not to make you feel good, but to develop spiritual formation. You will be transformed into a different person as your character becomes more reflective of God.
A restored relationships is as strange as it is redemptive.