Tuesday, December 02, 2008

forgiveness (for Xmas and for life)

When I was in New York on a BURPO mission trip back in the day (early 2002), me and the fellas got to work for an off Broadway musical called "The Rock and the Rabbi". They quickly nailed in one song a point that I think often gets passed over as "good feelings" in traditional sermonettes on it.

In Matthew 18:22, Peter had just asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother. This goes back to rabbis interpreting the Old Testament. Peter and the disciples knew that Jesus was talking about changing things in big ways. At the time, it was accepted that you would forgive someone up to 3 times. Peter, knowing Jesus was bringing something new about, offered a generous "seven" times in his question (verse 21).

Jesus responds to Peter's generous offer with something even more staggering. Depending on your translation, you may see "seven times seventy", or "seventy-seven" times. In either case, the interpretation is similar. Jesus is giving a symbolic number (3 sevens) for the infinite. For the limitless. If you count how often you forgive someone, you're missing the point.

There are other aspects to this story. The fact that it's the opposite direction of the story found in Genesis 4. Cain had killed his brother. His other brother, Lamech, wants revenge by killing Cain. In Genesis 4:24, we see vengeance and murder (counting offenses) in an infinite direction. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus offers a new direction. He offers a way counter to the fall of humanity, a way of redemption, a way of the Kingdom of God.

How does this look in our world today? Surely we can't be expected to forgive someone every time they offend? Open our doors, homes, and lives to people, even if we don't agree with choices they make? Even if we feel they've hurt us in some way? Does this also apply to us as groups/societies, businesses, and nations as well?

If we forgive infinitely, won't we end up losing? Won't we end up wounded? Won't we be taken advantage of? Even harder, won't the people we love end up getting hurt?


At this point, the Youth Pastor-ish side of me wants to come out and say, "But it's worth it, cause it'd be the direction of the Kingdom of God." So there.

But it still scares me. And yet...there it is.

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