How many times do I have to forgive my brother or sister? Seven times? No, Jesus answers, seventy times seven times. Now if you are counting on your fingers trying to figure out how many times you need to forgive someone - you’ve missed the whole point of the Gospel.
Jesus is asking for universal forgiveness, a kind of universal spiritual healthcare. Jesus is calling forth in us an attitude of forgiveness in all times and places. I can hear the voices being raised: nice ideal, impossible, can’t be done, there are just too many jerks wandering around… the list goes on and on. We can only contain so much; anger, resentment, negativity,, ticked-off-ness before we reach a breaking point. Not only our spiritual wellbeing, but our physical and mental wellbeing are at stake here.
Forgiveness takes many forms. The word, forgive, says it all; you give, before all else, expecting nothing in return. A forgiving word may, or may not, change another person but it will have already changed you. So, when you get up in the morning have no expectation that anything, or anyone will do things the way you want them done. I guarantee you two things, you won’t be disappointed and you might be in store for a few surprises along the way. At least you won’t be fretting about anything and everything and everyone all day long.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean you can’t have opinions; you can have very strong opinions you just don’t have to let them tear you apart if they are not realized immediately. Some years ago a new family moved in across the street from my mom and dad. We lived in a very friendly beach community - everyone talked and chatted with everyone but not this guy. My dad would see him every morning and give him a big smile and a loud “good morning” and then — nothing, not a word or even a nod. My dad had a very strong opinion about him - I think the word he used was curmudgeon. My dad was not a person to give up on anything easily and it took him the better part of a year to get a hello out of him and over time they became pretty good neighbors and friends. Finally, the neighbor became free but the important part is that my dad was free all along.
The ability to forgive is really the the realization and celebration of our freedom, that we have been completely and unconditionally set free by God’s forgiveness of us. Our salvation is a done deal, there is nothing for us to do, we can’t earn it, or work for it; we are only invited to participate in this freely given gift of forgiveness by paying it forward, doing unto others what God has done and is doing in us. Every wrong we have ever done, are doing or will do has already been nailed to the cross and forgiven - it’s a done deal and what God’s asks of us is to begin participating in the very freedom of our salvation - to have and to live “life to the full.”
This is the mistake of the servant in the Gospel. He wanted to be free of the debt, and the master freed him, but the servant kept it for his own personal possession. The servant would not be truly free of the debt until he too gave it away - through loving forgiveness of his fellow servants.