Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.
“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
Luke 17:1-4 (NLT)
Ok. It is a little weird to think of someone coming back to me seven times in a day asking for forgiveness. But the message is clear.
Sure, it is good to be a Christian who forgives. Because, well, we believe that as we are forgiven, we are to forgive others. It could even be said that it is the good Christian thing to do.
When someone steals something, or says mean and nasty things in the various ways in which that kind of slander can occur, it could be considered easy to at some point in time, forgive.
Yet, when the barbarity digs deep into the soul as if to violate the humanity within it, forgiveness is not easy. Our human history is full of these atrocities. Atomic bombs, genocide and some of the worst stories anyone could ever imagine have happened to more than just a few people. When one comes to them and says ‘forgive’ because it is the Christian thing to do, forgiveness is given the value of being found at the bottom of a discount bin in the dollar store.
Forgiveness needs the dignity of the human experience. The experience of the violated soul needs the dignity of recognition and understanding. In finding that dignity, the loved and valued child of God dignity, even asking the mere question, “can I forgive?” suggests a different, redemptive reality.
So one of the many messages taken from this text points us to the importance God puts on human relationships. Work towards forgiveness. Let it orient you because forgiveness is redemptive. Our world doesn’t see enough of it. But it is not easy. It is not cheap. Which is why it is beautiful. We have an example in the’ not at all cheap’ forgiveness in the saving life of Christ.
May we, in our pain and agony come to ask the question “can I forgive?” with a costly dignity with which it deserves.
What do you think? What is forgiveness worth? Is there anything, particularly as we think of the atrocities littered throughout human history, that is unforgivable?