How many times should we extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us?
This was the dominant question, heavy on Peter's heart, as he approached Jesus for an answer. "But what about..." and "yeah, but what about in this situation?" Should we be a door mat for people to walk all over us and not fight for our rights?
Jesus' answer: 70 x 7
This numerical equation is the Jewish equivalent of, eternity. It is the same kind of language He used in answering the expert in the laws' questions about Olam Haba - "life to the vanishing point", or the foreverandeveramen.
What if He actually meant those words? Can you imagine if people actually took Him seriously in this command? That would really wreck your church constitution on disciplinary actions! It might actually mean that fallen people are still welcome at the Table, and sinners are embraced with amnesia, and grudges are expunged, and earthly judges are commissioned to sentence sinners to a life in communal confinement.
For all the times I have stumbled into the Heavenly Kingdom via Spiritual Bankruptcy, I am indebted to a Judge who does not keep a record of profits and losses. How can I say thank You? How can I possible say thank You enough?
Thank You for being my friend, when the bullets of criticism were fired. Thank You for standing as my defense, when professional religious people packed that side of the court room hurling rocks in the form of letters to a carnal impostor. Thank You for covering me with Your own blood, and washing me clean. Thank You for never giving up on me when everyone else turned away. Thank You for being the God of all-comfort. Thank You for being the Lion and the Lamb and the Tension between conquer and submission and fight and flight. Thank You for meeting me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Belly of the Whale, in the midnight hour; You whispered in my ear: "love still wins."
Thank You for Jamie and strength under control, and three little girls who could care less about organized religion and yet have a deeper understanding of unconditional love than most of the pastors in Muskegon. Thank You for my dad who, despite his unorthodox ways, has modeled for me what it means to be a safe place for people who are all screwed up. Thank You for my mother who still grieves my eXodus from home, and aches for her bloodline to be close. Thank You for Jennifer (Eric) who will war on my behalf if she so much as hears a whisper of criticism. Thank You for Janelle (Brian) who will give an earful to the management at the local YMCA if they hesitate to let me join their membership. Thank You to Jon (Sara) who continue to teach me how to love well, how to labor over the Word in worship, and how to model selflessness to our children.
This Thanksgiving I rest in this mercy, with uncontrollable trembling in response. That I have been forgiven (70 x 7) for my infinite sins, and I am being healed by the scars of a slaughtered Lamb who is returning as a Lion. I am, in every way, crucified and resurrected with Him!
Post Script :: I love You.