Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21-22)
Thursday, September 15, 2011
During the school year, I attend a mid-week Methodist prayer meeting on the campus across the street from work. We get together to read a passage from the lectionary three times, share briefly about what speaks to us from that passage, sing a song, and pray for ourselves and the world. The chaplains who lead this meeting are well aware that I am a Quaker and, though it is not my tradition, I enjoy the liturgy.
Yesterday, we read the passage from Matthew on how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. It is a familiar passage, and I had always understood those verses to mean that we should forgive our brother each time he sins against us.
But as I listened to the verses and then read them aloud myself, I heard them a different way. I realized that I also need to keep forgiving another person who has wronged me for the same thing.
It is so much easier to forgive someone than to keep forgiving them. I will forgive someone for something and think I am over it, but then later (sometimes months later!), I will feel angry and hurt again about whatever it was that happened.
Letting go is hard. Forgiving over and over is hard. But maybe if I do it seventy-seven times, it will actually stick.