In the 2nd half of this chapter, we are reminded of one of the tough truths of discipleship. Forgiveness is hard work. To paraphrase The Princess Bride, anyone who says otherwise is just selling something. Forgiveness is tough. The passage reflects this – Verses 15-20 share a process of seeking reconciliation – while its a beautiful process, its not an easy one. Anyone who has ever had to confront someone else about an issue can attest to that. Verses 21-22 reflect that we are not to run out of forgiveness for others – 77 times! Then the parable at the end in verses 23-35 – The servant who was forgiven so much but then unwilling to forgive a much smaller debt of someone else. I know that I have been that servant too many times in my life where I am not willing (or able) to share the forgiveness that I have received from God or from others. The times where I have let something petty break a relationship. I don’t think I’m alone in this either. We’ve all been there, I think.
Like this picture reflects, we all have baggage. We all have the bags of our lives that we carry around. We carry our hurts, our shortcomings, our scars, our history, our past, our families of origin, our brokenness…its all in those bags that can be very very heavy and can be hard to get beyond. Yet, we are blessed that forgiveness has been offered to us – the bags have been offered to be taken away, but so often we want to hold on to them. Not because we like them, but we cannot imagine life in any other way.
Jesus reminds us that forgiveness is hard work, yes. But its necessary work – necessary in our individual lives and necessary in our relationships with those we know and those we don’t.
I love the closing words of U2’s song, Grace…
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Forgiveness (often understood through grace) can do that – make beauty out of ugly things. Bags that were so heavy for so long are suddenly lifted and we are able to stand straight and walk strong and tall with others who have received that same forgiveness.
One of my favorite Rob Bell videos is entitled, “Luggage” and here’s the “trailer” for it – you can rent it for $1.99 on youtube as well to watch the whole thing (its worth it, trust me)