Aloha Friday Message – September 9, 2011 – Forgive me?

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Read it online here.

Matthew 18:32-35. “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Luke 11:2-4. 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. ‘”

Matthew 6:9-15. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Sunday is 9/11. Americans – and billions all around the world – will never forget that day. Many will never forgive those who committed thousands of murders that day. Many others will celebrate the lives cut short by those murders, and still others will join in celebrating the heroic acts committed that day by many. Who among us will celebrate forgiveness?

Do you ever pray The Lord’s Prayer? When you do, are you certain you are praying it and not reciting it? We hear it, say it, pray it, and display it so often it sort of gets camouflaged in our sense of the passage of time. Now, it doesn’t matter much if you say “trespasses,” or “debts,” or “sins.” We all understand what that means, and of course we understand the meanings of the corresponding terms – those who trespass, debtors, those who sin – as the persons outside of us who may have wronged us in some way. Not a problem. The problem is in the “forgive.”

All of us have heard touching stories of life-changing forgiveness. The forgiver and the forgiven are both changed. Both are also humbled by the experience. Both have to work at the two stages of forgiveness – giving forgiveness and accepting forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift. It cannot be imposed. As it is a gift, it can be rejected – we’ll touch on that momentarily – but if it is accepted, then the quality of the forgiveness given is measured by the length of time it lasts. Do I, do you, do we forgive quickly and then dig up the grudge the forgiveness buried and use it to bash the forgiven? Is that forgiveness? Probably not I think. This is one gift that can be given once, but it is not a possession for the forgiven. It is a gift forgiver and forgiven must share continuously and equally. That’s what makes forgiveness unique. You can’t just plop it into someone’s life and walk away from it or them. You have to make sure the forgiveness stays in both your hearts!

Now, what if your gift of forgiveness isn’t accepted? Well, if it is true forgiveness, then you still have to nurture it all the time just as if it had been accepted. The difference here is that you have to nurture it on your own without the help, feedback, and good will of the forgiven. Sometimes this is really difficult to do; it can be a terrible experience if the rejection of your forgiveness starts out and remains hostile. “I don’t need your forgiveness! I don’t want your forgiveness! Your forgiveness is meaningless!” Wouldn’t that be terrible?

And now let’s supposed that we have sincerely given forgiveness and it has been sincerely received, but received without repentance. The forgiven keeps “trespassing against us.” We keep forgiving “those who trespass against us.” They keep sinning and we keep forgiving. Eventually we can reach a point where we say, ENOUGH!”

Let’s jump up the page a few verses in Matthew 18 and go to Matthew 18:21-22. Peter, bless his eager and very human heart, is trying to give an apple to the Teacher by showing off a little. In those days, the Rabbis said that forgiving someone three times would be sufficient. If they needed more forgiveness than that, the “rules” said one was under no further obligation. Peter wants to show how much more generous he and the disciples – and by inference, Jesus – can be so he more than doubles the ante by saying, “… as much as seven times?” That would shock the listeners and impress the other Apostles; or so Peter thought. Jesus comes back with, “as much as seventy times seven.” That probably stunned Peter and everyone else to silence – momentarily. (Jesus segued right into another parable just then.) Who’s going to keep track of 490 incidents of forgiveness?

EXACTLY!

Do you think God keeps track of how many times he has to forgive you or how many times you say you have repented? Remember, he forgets your sins the moment they are forgiven, so how can he keep score?

Do you ever tell God, “I don’t need your forgiveness! I don’t want your forgiveness! Your forgiveness is meaningless!” No? When you know you need forgiveness, do you ask for it? When God gives you forgiveness even if you refuse to ask for it, do you accept it?

When it becomes crystal clear that the barrier to requesting or accepting forgiveness is the failure to forgive yourself, do you also confess the sin of pride and humbly accept the gift of forgiveness from yourself?

And if you forgive yourself once, will you nurture that forgiveness with humility and love so that it becomes something shared among body, mind, and spirit? Are you also willing to share your forgiveness of self with the Source of Life and the Author of Forgiveness? Can you do that seventy-times-seven starting over again at 1 each time you forget you’ve been forgiven or each time you need to be forgiven (by anyone, including you!)?

Can you forgive the 19? Can you forgive their leaders? Can you forgive someone who can’t even hear your forgiveness? Can you forgive war, terror, oppression, violence, betrayal, and indifference?

If God can forgive our indifference, our betrayal, and our sins of greed and pride – and every other sin as well – can we not forgive ourselves and one another?

In our chosen verse today, the servant had been forgiven an immense debt – more than any person could ever repay. Then this wicked servant went and throttled someone who owed him an insignificant and infinitesimally smaller amount – it was like the difference between $100,000,000 and half-a-buck. The other servants saw what he did and reported his act to the master of the household. That master in turn called back the forgiven servant and handed him over to the jailers (jailers also had the responsibility for torturing prisoners, hence the use of that term) “until the debt be repaid.” How long do you think it was before that guy got out of jail? Right. Never.

Now, before we get into a heated discussion about the Power of Grace, let me just say that in this case, the man rejected the forgiveness – his actions proved as much – and the master allowed him to live with the original consequences – death. When we refuse the Grace of God’s forgiveness, we also are allowed to receive the original consequences – “for the wages of sin is … death.”

Beloved, what forgiveness we need! And what forgiveness we have in Christ Jesus! All he asks in return is “Go, and sin no more.” But with every trespass you can repent, and with every repentance you can know forgiveness. You can even know that forgiveness from yourself if you remember to share it with our Lord. Forgive one and all, every time, all the time, and you will find no reason to keep track of it. After all, if God doesn’t, why should you?

Share-A-Prayer
Thanks for your prayers for JE. He is recuperating at home now. Pretty scary stuff!

Please continue your prayers for persons suffering from addictions. For them, the ability to stay sober depends on their ability to stay forgiven by being aggressively repentant. There’s no such thing as moderation of an addiction just as there is no cure for addiction. There is only recovery, and beloved, ongoing recovery is pretty nearly the same thing as ongoing forgiveness.

These past several days (weeks … months … years), so many of our brothers and sisters have endured tragedy! The weather has affected millions of people all around the world. Terrible things are happening because of it. In many places there have also been murders and assassinations and suicides. Pray for those who suffer in all these events; and, please, do something to help – even to the point of sacrifice.

Lastly, Beloved, settle your debts with one another: Forgive, repent, change, grow humble, and live in great joy! Why? But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Eternity is a long, long, long time to be in prison. Believe me, you don’t want to go there! As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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