We’ve all heard it before: Forgive and forget. In fact, it gets quoted almost as much and in the same context as this week’s Gospel reading (Matthew 18:21-35) where Peter asks Jesus how many times we have to forgive. Peter suggests the number seven – and Jesus responds with “Seventy times seven times!” Yikes. Considering that the number seven itself is the biblical number for perfection and holiness, you’d think that Peter was onto something.
However, what Jesus has in mind is that forgiveness itself, is not quantifiable by a number or amount. It is a way of life. Period. It doesn’t end – in fact it can’t – because forgiveness is a part of the divine grace and love of God that Jesus proclaims in the gospel. To think of forgiveness as anything less is absurd – something Jesus will model in the parable that he tells about the King and servants. Those who want to follow also have to be willing to take up their own cross of forgiveness, and walk.
We often hear that powerful gospel message get watered down into that well worn, candy coated saying: forgive and forget. But the thing is, there are some things in life that you cannot forget. In fact, how can you forgive anyone, anything, if you don’t remember what they did? I get the well meaning nature of this expression, but it totally misses the mark when it comes to the gospel this week. I’ll leave my interpretation of the parable for the sermon on Sunday – and we definitely need to talk about this one.
There are some things in life that you cannot forget. When I work with people who have traumatized by physical, sexual and mental abuse in their life…they can’t forget. You can’t forget a wound that has seared itself into your life – it changes you – you can’t simply wake up one day and forget it. You have to learn how to live with it…and beyond it…if you want to live as the Risen Christ calls us to live that is. There are some things in life you will not forget, but for everything, there must be forgiveness.
I’ll never forget the first time I learned how cheap that saying really is. While I was a student in Lively ON (near Sudbury), I was also the chaplain for Huntington University. A local First Nations Artist, Leland Bell, was giving a lecture on his incredible artwork of which I am a huge fan. Laurentian University is also the site of the United Church’s first apology to First Nations People for the scourge of residential schools and the rol