“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18:35 (NIV)
In this parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus tells Peter – who has asked how often he should forgive a brother who has sinned against him – that 7 times is not enough, but 77 times, in Biblical terms, to forgive without limit!
After the 1994 Rwandan genocide, I lived in Goma and worked in the refugee camps in the horrific conditions there. I witnessed the devastation and trauma of such indescribable suffering. To deal later with the consequences of the genocide, Rwanda set up a novel network of Gacaca community courts, where offenders had to face the families of those they had killed. I will never forget one such incident. A murderer had been converted while in prison. He came face to face with the mother of his dead victim. He fell on his knees, as he wept begging forgiveness for his crime.
The community was incredulous to hear the mother say: “I will forgive you, but on one condition: that you agree to become my adopted son, to take the place of my son you killed.” In awed silence the community witnessed forgiveness at its profoundest, a woman ‘seized to be a forgiver’. She was living out the words of Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. She had understood that an unforgiving spirit only means taking the poison intended for the other. The choice is ours.
Jesus has seized you to be a forgiver of the 77!
This is the fourth in the “Seized to Be A Living Sacrifice” series of blog posts and is a special submission from our close friend in Australia, David Cohen, of Moringa Associates.