My reflections on parenting remind me of those times when my children failed to meet my expectations. Children’s disobedience can wound the hearts of their parents. During their formative years and while they live with us, we continue our role of teaching and training in the art of forgiveness.
As a mother, I am naturally inclined to forgive my children. Being forgiving and offering a means of grace is to be expected. So what does this mean for Jesus and Peter? Peter has been traveling with Jesus for three years. He has witnessed healing, proclamation, forgiveness of sin. He has, in many respects, spent formative years being trained and taught by Jesus. And it appears that Peter’s question: “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?” is more preemptive than having a basis in reality. Peter seems to believe that at some point we stop forgiving.
Some of us believe that as well. Some of us know we need to forgive but find ourselves unable to let go of past hurts. They are too deep. So when Jesus responds, “Seventy-seven times”—a limitless number, we must reconsider our relationships with those who have hurt us.
As a parent, I recall times when my children, both of whom had been forgiven for earlier offenses, withheld forgiveness from one another. And Jesus’ parable provides a key here. A debt is forgiven for an enormous amount, but that person is unwilling to forgive another of a small debt. For many people forgiveness is a hard practice. But should we not have mercy on others, just as we have received mercy ourselves? How often should we forgive? “As many as seven times?” No, Jesus replies; “not seven times, but . . . seventy-seven times.” May God have mercy on us all.
Loving and faithful God, help us to forgive others as we grow in your love and grace. Amen.
Exodus 14 narrates the Exodus event in stylized liturgical statements. It tells of God’s utter commit- ment to Israel and of Israel’s fearful doubt. This is a narrative “toward faith.” Psalm 114 is a buoyant, almost de ant cele- bration of the Exodus, in which all the enemies of Yahweh are put to embarrassing ight. It is recalled that Yahweh’s sovereign power to liberate is decisive for the world, as it is for Israel. In Romans 14 Paul struggles with the issue of free- dom within obedience and moves us beyond the letter of the law to its spirit. For Paul, the attitude of faith shapes human conduct. The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew reminds all would-be disciples that law must be tempered with mercy in their dealings with one another if they expect to receive mercy from God.
• Read Exodus 14:19-31. How can you tell when God is guiding you? When in your life have you wondered if God was still there? Reflect on those times.
• Read Psalm 114. “Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.” Substitute your name for Judah and Israel in this verse and pray the words several times. How does it feel to be called God’s sanctuary and dominion?
• Read Romans 14:1-12. How do you observe a weekly sabbath? Are there businesses in your community that close for a sabbath? How does that practice affect you?
• Read Matthew 18:21-35. Whom do you want or need to for- give? Why and how might you avoid this issue? How will you pray about this?
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This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.