“How often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22 (NRSV)
We often talk about Jesus’ mandate to forgive. But we rarely talk about when.
Might it be possible to forgive too soon? Might precipitous forgiveness extinguish a flame we need to protect us? To have a chance to talk to God about what justice might actually look like?
Sometimes those prayerful conversations can take a moment.
Yes, Jesus says to forgive. But we have to let God do God’s part, too. Maybe God has a few more things to say about the issue before it’s meant to be settled. About how to make it right.
Of course, not all situations lead to justice that we witness ourselves. And what Jesus is showing us in this parable is that there’s a hierarchy at play here.
Forgiveness is God’s.
So is retribution. Vengeance is mine & recompense, saith the Lord.
True forgiveness—in a Christian sense—only comes when God graces us with it. Our forgiveness isn’t ours to give; it’s God’s to share. And when God gives it to us, we have to turn it over. That’s the command.
So forgive—by the grace of God—forgive.
By the grace of God alone.
Help us to do our part of the work, seven times and seventy-seven times. And help us to let you do your part too, as long as it takes. Amen.