21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

One of my earliest memories as a young boy was a time where I was blamed for something I didn’t do, and I was punished for it.  Not too long after that, however, my dad came into my room, and sat on the bed, and begged for my forgiveness.  Turns out he figured out ‘who done it’ and had taken care of it, and his final step was to ask for my forgiveness.  There was no way he could undo the punishment meted out, but I didn’t care: I forgave him immediately.  He was my dad, and I loved him, and still do.

It seems we suffer pain from others all the time.  It’s probably less frequent than we suppose, but it feels frequent nonetheless.  All these things begin to add up and muddy our lives with bitterness and cynicism.  No one can do right by us, and we sure let them know it.  But, if we pay attention to the words of Jesus, this shouldn’t be so.  Just as forgiveness was immediate and in love when I was younger, allow forgiveness to flow freely to those who do us harm.  The example demonstrates how we are sometimes.  We ask forgiveness of those we hurt, and receive it in abundance, but when it’s our turn, we withhold it, for whatever reason, and gulp down the bitterness as if it’s sweet to the taste.

In my life, I’ve never counted how many times I’ve forgiven people.  That’s the point of the number seventy-seven that Jesus gives to Peter.  Our forgiveness should be given in abundance – it’s one thing that’s truly free.  It costs us nothing to give it away.  And the supply is endless.

As Stephen was being stoned to death, he sees Jesus standing on the right hand of God, says so, bringing more stones upon himself (Acts 7:54-60).  As he’s dying, he does something one wouldn’t expect him to do:  he asks God to forgive them.  They’re pelting him with rocks, unjustly, and forgiveness is what he repays them with.  Read the prayer below, as many times as necessary, and then become a liberal forgiver.

Father, I ask you to teach me forgiveness.
Let my life be abundant in forgiveness to those who
hurt me unknowing.
Let my life be abundant in forgiveness to those who
hurt me knowing.
As you are abundant in your forgiveness towards me,
let me shower that same forgiveness towards those around me.
As you are abundant in your love towards me,
let love roll like a stream that never dries towards those around me.
Father, keeper of my soul, let me live with open hands,
freely forgiving.

By Rich Obrecht  

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