When once talking with Jesus about this challenge, Peter felt he was going far beyond any reasonable limit by suggesting to Jesus that maybe forgiving someone seven times was more than enough. In his always surprising and often irritating way, Jesus told him no, there was in truth no limit to the number of times we were to forgive another person (Matthew 18:21-22). So, when Jesus speaks to us again as congregations, or at least to us in our prophetic mission groups, we will clearly practice persistent forgiveness.
If we fail to witness to our freedom in Christ in this way, Jesus fears we have failed to rightly understand our relationships to him and to others. For him to relate to us with the steadfast love that he does, he must forgive our gigantic debt to him. For us to relate to others as witnesses to this same steadfast love, we need only forgive them for some little debt. Having been forgiven our gigantic debt by Jesus, this should be easy. When Jesus speaks to us again, we will discern just how little the debts that others owe us truly are.
Jesus invites us to start working on reducing the perceived debts of others right now. One good way? Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5b, New International Version). Our Olympian personality keeps a record of all wrongs—real or imagined. What starts, in our little heart of darkness, is a record of just a tiny debt. But our Olympian resentment charges enormous interest on it until it grows in no time to a size we imagine is unforgiveable. When Jesus speaks to us again, our Christian personality will practice a regular righting of accounts. Let’s make it a point to cancel any perceived debt every Sunday. If we’re having problems with someone, that gives us one week to speak to them about it. One way or the other, we let it go.
Forgiveness is the chance to start fresh. We all make mistakes. Worse, we all sin against others. Others sin against us. All this sin is both unpleasant and evil. But to keep it from deforming our lives, from enslaving us to some rather nasty gods, we need to wipe the slate clean routinely and thoroughly. We need to witness to that freedom from resentment that is ours in Jesus Christ. When Jesus speaks to us again, we will.