01 January 2011

From the Evangelist Desk.

“How many times did you say?” You must be joking me.

Matthew 18: 21-23 (NIV)
21 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?”
 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
Peter is asking Christ how many times he should forgive others. He thought that seven times was quite a good score before you say enough is enough. But Christ replied with a larger sum than most people are willing to cope with, seventy seven times.
Does that type of forgiveness make us Christians a soft touch for others? I have had people say to me when they organise a confrontation, “I thought you are supposed to turn the other cheek?”
Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” I explain to people that being a Christian does not mean that I will roll over and play dead. It doesn’t mean that I will give in to pressure or unjust actions. I will fight my corner if the need requires. I do explain that if they hurt me, by slapping me in the face, metaphorically speaking, I will not retaliate or try to “get even” with them.
As a Christian we must always be ready to forgive, why? Because if we harbour a grudge or store a hurt up, who is it really affecting? More than likely us. The person responsible has probably moved on and has already forgotten what they did or said, it could have even been an off the cuff remark,  a throw away comment. If we cannot forgive then we will eventually be riddled with vengeance and hate, we will be plotting the next downfall of someone who has hurt us. We will never be able to let go.
So we must continue to forgive those who sin against us, even if they sin against us seventy seven times. We must be willing to forgive and move on. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, we can learn from the experience and gain wisdom to help us become more “street wise”.
One thing we must not do is judge someone who has wronged us. For as it says in the Gospel. Matthew 7:1 (NIV) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
Here I feel we are being told not to judge others for what they have done against us or others. Another hard pill to swallow I know, but hey, who said being a Christian is easy? If following Christ were easy and all our requests adhered too, then everyone would want to be a Christian so that they could enjoy that easy life.

So how many times was it Lord? I remember seventy seven. That gives me a chance to show the person that I really do respect them as one of God’s creatures. It gives me a chance to show the Lord’s love to its full extent. It gives me a chance to develop humility and humbleness. It gives me a chance to show a caring heart. And as strange as it may seem it gives a chance to move alongside that person and introduce them to the Lord, because I bet they will wear themselves out way before they reach their seventy seven times sins against us.

Lastly let us remember what the Lord said in:
John 8: 6-8 (NIV).  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
I can tell you for sure that I would be one of the ones that left the scene, because I am certainly not without sin. Everyday I ask the Lord to forgive me, so why shouldn’t I be ready to forgive others?
Yours in Christ.
Rick Hayes
Diocesan Evangelist.
© Rick Hayes, January 2011