When Peter asked Jesus about the limits of forgiveness, he was really asking the wrong question, or at least from the wrong perspective. What Peter was really asking was “How many times does a person deserve to be forgiven”?
Jesus answer was not focused so much on the person being forgiven, but the one who was doing the forgiving. Jesus response to Peter essentially demanded that forgiveness have no limits. Forgiveness should not be considered as a series of transactions, but as a way of living in God’s Kingdom.
Nelson Mandela has said “Forgiveness liberates the soul. That is why it is such a powerful weapon”.
Few people in history have had so many reasons not to forgive. He was imprisoned for speaking against a ruthless and oppressive colonial rule in South Africa. He watched as his own people were segregated, massacred and dehumanized under racist apartheid laws. His rise to power could have resulted in brutal retaliation leaving more death and hatred in its wake. Instead, Mandela saw power in forgiveness – a weapon to change minds and hearts in ways that no violence could ever achieve. Forgiveness and reconciliation became a way of life in South Africa and this bears witness to the wisdom of Jesus’ answer to Peter.
When we realize that forgiveness has liberating powers for us, we unbind ourselves from the system of reciprocity that has weighed heavily on human history with disastrous results. Forgiveness is an unlimited arsenal of power which comes from the call of Jesus Christ – the call to love God, love ourselves, love our neighbors, and yes, love even our enemies. Forgiveness is a gift from God for the health of our own souls.
Who can you forgive today from God's unlimited arsenal?
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About this website
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.