On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 91: We Cannot Forgive Enough

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”(Matthew 18:21 RSV)

Our society is filled with numbers and statistics. Everything has a price, for example. Newspapers are filled with ads that reveal costs as well as pages of “economic” data that are in reality, just numbers. The sports pages are crammed with box scores and player statistics. Professional sports teams are now relying heavily on what they call “analytics” defined as, the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data, that is, in the statistics and numbers.

In an interesting exchange between the Apostle Peter and Our Lord in Matthew 18, numbers play an important part. The Apostle wants to know the answer to a question about “How many?” How many times should I forgive my brother for sinning against me? The Apostle suggests that it be seven times. Our Lord, however, replies with an obviously exaggerated expectation: seventy times seven is the number of times to forgive that brother.

Perhaps Jesus’ reply caused some laughter among those listening to this exchange. Seventy times seven? The numbers are simple enough to figure out: 490 times! The laughter might come in the understanding that this figure is a suggestion that no one can ever run out of times to forgive someone else. Forgiveness here is essentially infinite – it never, ever runs out. Our Lord is saying in effect, “You don’t need to bother counting. True forgiveness does not keep score.”

We have all heard the saying “To err is human; to forgive divine.” There is truth to that saying. Forgiveness is, to put it simply, God’s way. God has devised a way to offer full and complete forgiveness for all of our sins. For those of us who live in the state of this forgiveness, we then offer our brothers and sisters that forgiveness. It is a rather simple stewardship: we have been fully forgiven, and we share that forgiveness with everyone else. Such forgiveness actually costs us nothing. It does not reduce the amount we are forgiven by God, nor do we need to find a store of materials to use in order to forgive.

Forgiveness does not keep score. Forgiveness is an opportunity to restore broken relationships. Forgiveness is an opportunity to begin again, from the start. The words of Jesus:   “…forgive, and you will be forgiven …good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37-38 RSV).

 This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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