“Peter approached Jesus and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-35)
Could I have done that? How would I have reacted?
These questions lingered in my mind after I watched the eulogy Michael Tran delivered for his wife, Theresa ‘04. Days earlier, Theresa had passed away in a tragic accident. Another car, reportedly traveling more than 50 miles over the speed limit, swerved into the wrong lane and hit Theresa’s car.
Michael’ touching tribute earned widespread praise. He spoke of his deep love for his wife and the strength he took from his faith in God. The moment that really stuck with me, though, was when Michael turned his attention to the family of the other driver, who also passed away in the accident.
“Everybody is praying for me and my family, which is right,” he said. “But let us not forget that there were two people in this situation. And that family needs prayer as well. And we have no ill will towards that family.”
It was an amazing, startling gesture of compassion and forgiveness. And if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think I could have done that. I probably would not have reacted that way. I would have struggled to overcome the blame and the anger.
It can be easy to forgive minor offenses. Yet in this passage Jesus calls us to forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times. It’s a daunting standard, even if we’re provided with the ultimate testimony through our own faith: When we commit even our worst sins, we know we can seek God’s forgiveness. Shouldn’t we be able to follow that example?
It’s easier said than done. But the next time I’m struggling to forgive, I hope I’ll think not just of this reading, but of Michael Tran and the grace and compassion he demonstrated in a moment that was, in all likelihood, far more difficult than whatever it is I might be facing.
Prayer for Today
Lord, when we beg for forgiveness, you readily grant it. All is wiped clean, all is forgotten. We put our trust in your generosity. Please grant us the desire to want to learn to forgive as you do.