Last weekend, I finally heard something about forgiveness that will stick with me forever. Many times in my life I have struggled with forgiveness and making it stick. When someone "trespasses against me," typically I can forgive quickly, but then I find myself holding onto the pain, or the memory of the offence. So, it is not really forgiving right? Are we called to forgive and forget? Many people have struggled with the answer to this age old question. Can you actually forgive AND forget? Is it safe? If we forgive too quickly will we become targets of more abuse? My friend and deaconess Louise Williams proposes that it is humanly impossible to forgive and forget. The best we can do she says is to forgive, and remember they are forgiven.
Last week's gospel lesson was Jesus' teaching on forgiveness, in Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus has been trying to teach his disciples on the meaning of what true greatness is. He says that true greatness is found even in the children and about the long process for winning back one who has broken relationship with the community. And in good ol' Peter fashion, (he never minces words) he says, "so Jesus, how many times do we have to forgive? Seven times?" Instead of Jesus' typical answering a question with another question, Jesus actually gives an answer, but with an impossible number, 77 times or 70 x 7, depending on your Bibles interpretation. Either way it is a humanly impossible number of times we are to forgive.
Jesus goes onto tell a parable, more his style. A slave is overly indebted to his master and his master shows him mercy, and forgives him all of his debts. Then, the slave, shows no mercy to another slave who owes him just a small amount of money. The master is outraged and throws the first slave into prison for being such an unforgiving dolt.
How are we to forgive? Over and over and over and over some more. It is a never ending action that takes really supernatural power. We cannot do it on our own accord. It is not humanly possible to forgive and forget, it is only possible (with God's help) to forgive and to remember the forgiving. It must be said that this action of forgiving is especially difficult when it comes to forgiving ourselves. If you are anything like me I have certain regrets that haunt me. Even though, I have my daily confessions to God, even though I know my sins are forgiven, I forget that I am forgiven. It is like there are some days when I feel like Pigpen trailing a little dirt fog behind me. Remembering that I am called to be a leader of the church, helps me to remember to continually be in prayer, offer confessions often and most important remember whose I am and the continual waves of grace and mercy that roll over me from God the Creator of all humankind.
Noblesville's Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at email@example.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com