Christ is Forgiveness

Christ is Forgiveness!

Exodus 14: 19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14: 1-12
Matthew 18: 21-35

Sentence: “For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God.” Romans 14: 10

Tena koutou katoa e te whanau o Te Wairua Tapu.

“How often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered Peter, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness, it sounds so easy to do, at least in principle. But “Every one,” according to C.S. Lewis, “says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until there is something to forgive”. What do we do then? What do we do when there is something to forgive? Does that mean forgive the drunk driver? The murderer? The rapist? The bully? The abusive parent? The greedy corporation? The racist? And as Christians, the answer to these questions is YES. 

Then all of a sudden, forgiveness isn’t so easy.

You see, forgiveness, for Jesus, is not something you can measure. It’s a quality; a way of being, a way of living, a way of loving, a way of relating and a way of thinking and seeing. It’s nothing less than the way of Christ. If we are to follow Christ then his way must become our way as well. “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. Look at your own lives and you will find broken promises, hurt feelings, betrayals, harsh words and physical and emotional wounds. Every one of us could tell stories of being hurt, traumatised or victimised by another. Beneath the pain, the wounds and the memories will always be the question of forgiveness.

When we don’t forgive, some will strike back seeking revenge. Some will run away from life and their relationships. Some will even let themselves be consumed by darkness. I don’t say that out of criticism or judgment of someone else but out of my own experience. I’ve done them all. I know how hard forgiveness can be. Like you, I too struggle with it and often avoid it. I also know that none of those answers are the way of Christ. All of them leave us stuck in the past, tied to the evil of someone else, and deprived of the future God wants to give us.

Forgiveness is the only way forward. That doesn’t mean we forget, condone, or approve of what was done. It doesn’t mean we ignore or excuse cruelty or injustice. It means we are released from them. We let go of the thoughts and fantasies of revenge, which I know is hard to do. But we look to the future rather than the past. We try to see and love as God sees and loves. Forgiveness is a way in which we align our life with God’s life. To withhold forgiveness is to put ourselves in the place of God, the ultimate judge to whom all are accountable (Rom. 14:10, 12).

God’s forgiveness and human forgiveness are inte-related. That is apparent in today’s parable. The king forgives his slave an extraordinary amount. Ten thousand talents is about 3000 years of work at the ordinary daily wage. It seems there is no debt too large to be forgiven. This man was forgiven. That’s what the kingdom of heaven is like. That’s how God is. This slave, however, refused to forgive his fellow slave 100 denarii, about three months of work at the ordinary daily wage. Too often that’s what our world is like. Frequently, that’s how we are. In that refusal the forgiven slave lost his own forgiveness. So do we. But this shouldn’t be news to us. We know it well. We acknowledge and pray it every Sunday and for most of us we pray it everyday. “Forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.” We pray those words with ease and familiarity but do we live our prayer? Do our actions support our request? “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

That’s a lot of forgiveness but the pain of the world, this country, our homeland and individuals is massive. We need to forgive as much, maybe even more, for ourselves as for the one we forgive. Forgiving those who sin against us is the source and power that begins to heal our wounds. It may not change the one who hurt you but your life will be more alive, more grace-filled, more whole and more God-like for having forgiven someone. Forgiveness creates space for new life. Forgiveness is an act of hopefulness and resurrection for the one who forgives. It’s the healing of our soul and our life. Forgiveness takes us out of the darkness and into light, from death to life. It releases us from the evil of another. It is the refusal to let our future be determined by the past. It’s the letting go of the thoughts, the hatred and the fear that fill us so that we might live and love again.

There is no easy road to forgiveness. Don’t let anyone tell you, “Just give it up to God. Forgive and forget.” That’s a simplistic answer that only demean those who suffer and scratches at the wound. Forgiving another takes time and work. It’s something we must practice every day. It begins with recognition and thanksgiving that we have been forgiven. We are the beneficiaries of the crucified one. Hanging between two thieves Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Lk. 23:34). That is the cry of infinite forgiveness, a cry we are to echo in our own lives, in our families, our work places, our church and in our day to day lives.

Forgiveness doesn’t originate in us. It begins with God. That’s what the slave who refused to forgive didn’t understand. It wasn’t about him. It’s always about God. We don’t choose to forgive. We only choose to share the forgiveness we have already received. Then we choose again, and then again, and then yet again. For most of us forgiveness is a process that we live into. However, sometimes,we just can’t. The pain is too much, the wounds are too raw and the memories too real. On those days we choose not to forgive. Somedays we choose to want to forgive. Then there are those days that all we can do is choose to want forgive again and again. But we choose because that’s the choice Christ made.

How many times must we choose to forgive? How many times have you been hurt and suffered by the actions or words of another? How many times has anger or fear controlled you? How many times has the thought of revenge filled you? How many times have you shuddered at the sight, the name, or the memory of another? How many times have you replayed in your head the argument with another? That’s how many times you choose. With each choosing we move a step closer to forgiveness. A step closer to God. Then one day, God willing, we will meet in Paradise free from all forgiveness and sin.  Jesus said, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Amen.

Archdeacon Kaio Karipa

Compassionate God, your forgiveness is more than we can imagine. Enable us to take hold of the forgiveness you offer and to have the grace to forgive others as we are forgiven. Through Jesus Christ our Liberator, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

The Venerable Kaio Karipa
Sydney Maori Anglican Fellowship Church of Te Wairua Tapu