Monday, August 03, 2009

What are you Willing to Forgive?

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21-22)

Last week I was travelling for business. Grabbing a paper to read on the flight, I noticed the headlines of Michael Vick being reinstated by the NFL. If you don't follow sports like I do you probably still heard of his story. He just finished a stint in prison for breeding dogs for fighting and was responsible for the deaths of many of said dogs. He was vilified all across the media spectrum, shunned by other athletes, and was rejected by most of society. Maybe rightfully so. When I saw those headlines it was easy to think of this topic to blog about.

But I didn't get around to it when I landed (and I was too lazy during the flight to write up a draft, darn you free TV on Delta flights!). And the next day the sports world was dominated by another headline, the release of two more names from the 2003 steroid "survey"- Manny Rameriz and David, Big Popi, Oritz. I've written about Manny before and his name wasn't much of a surprise, but Big Popi's was (at least until I saw his numbers broken down).

The difference between these two cases is staggering. Maybe it's the degree of offense- breeding, fighting, and killing dogs can easily be argued to be more immoral than cheating at a sport you're paid to excel in. But if you look at Ortiz and Rameriz more closely and unsurprisingly you find their fans supporting them and their rivals chiding them.

We're also in the "dog days" of summer before college football starts and online message boards are filled with "police blotter smack" where fans are focusing on the "speck of sawdust" in rivals' eyes while ignoring the "planks" in their own eye (referencing Mt 7:3 and Luke 6:41). We make a conscience decision what we're willing to tolerate as fans and spectators. Our rivals deserve no forgiveness while we turn a blind eye to any offenses by our own favorite players.

But the above scripture isn't about about who we forgive, but how often. Are we willing to forgive Michael Vick "seventy times seven times" as easily as we've forgiven Manny and Ortiz once?

The scripture continues,

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

"The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.

"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'

"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Mt 18:25-35)

So it's not only about how often, but also who. Forgiveness cannot discriminate, it must be universal. Your heavenly father forgave you, what are you willing to forgive?

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