Me? Forgive You?
In our reading this week from Matthew’s gospel we hear Jesus’ best-known instructions on forgiveness. When Peter asks how many times “another member of the church” is to be forgiven, Jesus insists that forgiving someone seven times is not adequate. The offending member must be forgiven 77 times. The number seems staggering but communicates clearly that forgiveness is to be an essential part of Christian communal life.
To punctuate his point, Jesus invokes a “kingdom of heaven” analogy that shows how seriously we are to take the reprimand to forgive. He tells the story of a king who is owed a debt by his slaves. At the moment when the king expects to be paid, one slave is not able to pay and as a result is to be sold along with his wife and children. The man pleads with the king and asks to be given more time. The king has mercy on him and forgives the debt completely but then the slave does not extend the same mercy to a fellow slave who owes him a debt. When the king finds out, he reinstates the original debt and has the slave tortured until he can repay it.