“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”Matthew 6:14-15
Peter must have felt so smug at first. Acting very much like the student who thinks he has just asked the most intelligent, erudite question possible of the professor. Only to be told that the question is just okay. Just okay?
Peter’s question was “Lord if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? Seven times.” No doubt Peter’s chest enlarged. He thought he had just given the most generous answer to the question. Seven!
The air went out of Peter’s chest when Jesus replied, “You’re not even close. You should forgive seventy-seven times.” Jesus isn’t being literal here, although seventy-seven times is a lot. Jesus is, using a metaphor, saying, “don’t ever stop forgiving.” This is not what Peter expected or, most likely, what he wanted.
Like an expiration date on the cheese wrapper, surely there is an expiration date on forgiveness. On relationships gone too far. How smug we feel when we say, “I’ve given up, and I’m done.” But Jesus hits us with a sucker punch when he reminds us of how many times he’s forgiven us. Of what forgiveness personally cost him. Can you say, “The Cross”?
Peter must have heard him when Jesus taught the Twelve the fundamentals of prayer. “O God, forgive us to the degree that we forgive others.” But in this lesson on forgiveness in Luke 18, Jesus also tells a story. It’s about a servant who goes begging his master, “I’ll never be able to pay back what I owe you. Please forgive me.”
To make sure we get the point, the servant in this parable owes 10,000 talents to his master. But he is unwilling to forgive a fellow servant who owes him 100 denarii. Ten thousand talents is an impossible, exaggerated amount of money. Jesus is playing with us. Trying to help us grasp what we owe him.
Peter probably muttered under his breath. “Never mind. That was a stupid question. I get it.”
The important point that Jesus is making is that it is a foolish errand to ask for God’s forgiveness when we’re unwilling to forgive a brother or sister. It’s not even negotiable.
So when you give up on someone and reach the limit of your forgiveness, remember 10,000 talents. In case you’re wondering, that’s about 60,000,000 denarii. Compare that to the 100 denarii of the fellow servant.
As Emily Latella said, “Never mind.”