1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause people to trip and fall into sin must happen, but how terrible it is for the person through whom they happen. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into a lake with a large stone hung around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to trip and fall into sin. 3 Watch yourselves! If your brother or sister sins, warn them to stop. If they change their hearts and lives, forgive them. 4 Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I am changing my ways,’ you must forgive that person.”
The trouble with the Lord’s Prayer is that it has a kind of quid pro quo embedded within it: “Forgive us…as we forgive.” We’re inviting God to forgive us in the same measure that we offer forgiveness to others.
If that doesn’t frighten you, it probably should.
Now, we know that God’s forgiveness is never limited and could never be limited by our own. If it were, then God wouldn’t be God. But the reminder of God’s expectation for us is still embedded in the prayer. The expectation is that we will reach beyond human limits of forgiveness to look more and more like God each day.
That’s why Jesus says in this passage, “even if someone sins against you seven times a day, still you must forgive.” People don’t do this. They can’t. Who can forgive the SAME thing SEVEN times a day? It’s not possible!
And yet, this is what God has done for us. This is what God continues to do for us. How many times has God forgiven our lack of faith? Our lack of empathy? Our unkind words? Even our own failure to forgive?
If we want to be more like God, Jesus says, we need to learn to forgive like God forgives.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Who is it that you need to forgive today? A sibling? Your parents? Your spouse? Your child? A friend? Yourself? How can you reach up toward God and/or out toward the other person (so long as it is safe to do so, both for you and them) to extend that forgiveness?
Prayer: Gracious Lord Jesus, I know that you have forgiven me. I know that you call me to forgive others. I also know that I often fall short of your standards, even though you forgive my sins seven times a day. Today, let me walk in your footsteps to offer forgiveness freely and joyfully, knowing that as I do so I become more and more like you. Amen.