I’m straying from the usual lectionary reading or TEC-based post to revisit one of my topics that generated some good discussion: does forgiveness mean just forgetting about what someone did to you and acting like it never happened?
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter addresses Jesus, essentially asking how many times he must forgive someone who’s sinned against him. Jesus’ response is figurative, but clear: we are to forgive, just as God has forgiven us.
Forgiveness is often misunderstand, as it is often tied in with the old cliche about forgiving and forgetting. In many peoples’ minds, true forgiveness means forgetting about what happened.
This isn’t true, however. We can forgive someone for having wronged us, without forgetting what happened or allowing them to hurt us again.
Forgiveness isn’t for the benefit of the person who wronged you – it’s for your good. Forgiveness frees you from the resentment their behavior may have caused, letting you maintain your relationship with God and live the abundant life that God promised.
One of the tricky things about forgiving others is the fact that sometimes it seems like you won’t get there. I learned this the hard way recently, and it is very difficult.
Sometimes you need to forgive someone who sinned against who has since died and can’t demonstrate repentance. You may even have to forgive others who have wronged you because of what someone else did.
We must always remember it’s not about an arbitrary number of times you must forgive or demanding proof of the other’s repentance. It’s about freeing ourselves from others’ hurtful, inconsiderate and sometimes hateful influence and living in the light.