But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.
Many years ago, my husband and I had an experience that’s become all too common these days: we incurred a large medical debt. Hanging over us like a boom that could fall at any time, this debt weighed us down considerably.
We regularly paid as much on it as we could, but it finally became clear to us—and to the doctor as well—that even with insurance, the burden was just too great; on a budget as small as ours, we would need years to pay it off.
Consequently, when the words “debt forgiven” appeared on a monthly statement, we were stunned and deeply relieved. I, for one, had no idea that such a thing was possible. Even the words—“debt forgiven”—had a liberating and healing effect. It was a tangible kind of forgiveness, unpredicted and certainly unearned.
The kind of forgiveness God gives.
When Peter asked, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus replied, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” In other words, as many times as it takes.
Jesus followed up by recounting the parable of the ungrateful slave. Though relieved of his own debt, which could have resulted in his entire family and all their possessions being sold, the man failed to show similar mercy to a fellow slave indebted to him. For this lack of compassion, the king reinstated his debt, demanding he be tortured until the entire amount was paid.
In the parable of the two debtors, one who owed little and one who owed much, Jesus points to another truth about forgiveness: the more one is forgiven, the more grateful he or she is likely to be.
Repeatedly, our stories of faith call attention to the human desire for forgiveness—and our need to forgive. In each there is a kind of liberation, a healing, and a reconfiguration of the heart. In each we know again the depth of the mercy of God.
O God, let us always be ready to forgive and be forgiven, that we might grow in your image through the transforming power of your love.
Copyright ©2005 Susan Hanson.