“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to Peter, ‘Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.” [Matthew 18:21-22: NRSV]
This is a hard passage to swallow. Forgiving those who sin against us is hard. Bring someone to mind who has sinned against you. Your body is probably tensing up. Your
gut is wrenching with resentment, hate, or even anger. It is hard when someone sins against you. I can hardly imagine forgiving seven times let alone seventy-seven times seven. What about you? So, it seems to me that Jesus is getting at something else. Notice that he is not focusing on the sinner, but on the one sinned against. Remember Peter asked the question about another member of the church. Sound familiar? The power to forgive is in our hands of the one sinned against whether the sinner acknowledges their sin or not. Jesus says to Peter, “It’s your choice.” You can let resentment become a stronghold of life. You can let anger seethe every time you see the person. But just know, you are the one suffering again and again and again. As Robert Assagioli says, “Without forgiveness life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” The choice is ours, the one sinned against. What will you choose?
Merciful God, your mercies are new every morning for me. Yet I confess that I struggle to forgive others even though I know I am the one who suffers. Please help me learn to let go of my resentments towards others so that my heart may be more like yours. Amen.