Peter came and said to (Jesus), “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” ~ Matthew 18:21-35
No pressure here on that forgiveness thing!
Torture aside, this parable and Jesus' words to Peter should make it clear just how important forgiveness is to God.
I read a statistic recently that said that about 2/3 of Jesus teaching was on forgiveness. (I haven't actually counted it for myself, but I trust that's fairly close).
So why is forgiveness so important?
And why is forgiveness so hard? Why so often do we not want to do it?
Maybe the question should be "what happens when we don't?"
In a way, Jesus isn't so far off with the torture analogy. Theologian Lewis Smedes said about forgiveness:
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Not forgiving is its own kind of prison. It holds us to the past - the worst parts of our past. It prevents us from moving forward.
Not forgiving can be its own kind of punishment as well. Holding onto anger has consequences for us physically, mentally, and spiritually.
To forgive isn't about freeing the other person. It's about freeing ourselves.
How often should I forgive, Peter asks?
Well, How often do you want to be free?
Free me from the prison of anger I keep myself in when I choose not to forgive. Amen