Lord, How Many Times…?

Peter: Eh... Jesus...?

Jesus: Yes, Peter?

Peter: How many times did you say I should forgive my brother?

Jesus: Have you and Andrew been fighting again, Peter?

Peter: Oh, you know what he’s like... I know you want us to forgive each other, but I really am ready to deck him... And I can’t remember, are we supposed to forgive others 77 times or is it 70 times 7?

Jesus: Who’s counting?

Peter: I am… Remember… I asked you how many times should I forgive him and you told me 77, or 70 times 7 before telling us that story of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt but then got banged up for throttling his friend over thrupence. Well, I’ve already forgiven Andrew 76 times so I’m wondering if the next time is his last?

Jesus: How do you know there will be a next time?

Peter: Oh, Don’t you worry… There’ll be a next time… If I haven’t drowned him or brained him first…

Jesus: That’s hardly the right attitude… I didn’t mean that you only had to forgive someone a certain number of times before hitting them with a baseball bat…

Peter: A what?

Jesus: Never mind…

Peter: So, come on, if it’s not 77, or 70 times 7, how many times is it then? 77 times 7?

Jesus: No… Think of a number…

Peter: What?

Jesus: Just think of a number…

Peter: OK.

Jesus: Double it.

Peter: Right.

Jesus: Square it.

Peter: Yes.

Jesus: Multiply it by 3 million, raise it to the power of 10 and then add the number you first thought of.

Peter: I’m sorry Jesus… I never was very good at maths…

Jesus: But you’re still good at keeping score of the number of times someone has wronged you.

Peter: So you are saying I should just forgive and forget.

Jesus: The words never crossed my lips.

Peter: You can’t just keep letting people off... Pretending that what they have done doesn’t matter.

Jesus: I didn’t say you should… Forgiveness isn’t about saying that when others do something wrong it’s OK... It’s about saying that what they have done is not OK but you will forgive them anyway.

Peter: But how many times?

Jesus: As many times as you need to...

Peter: But knowing Andrew that could be forever!

Jesus: And…

Peter: Well there have to be limits Lord…

Jesus: Do there?

Peter: Yes… Otherwise people can take advantage of you…

Jesus: OK then Peter… How many times do you want to be forgiven?

Peter: What?

Jesus: How many times do you want to be forgiven?

Peter: But this isn’t about me?

Jesus: Is it not?

Peter: No… It’s about Andrew…

Jesus: Well do you remember that prayer I taught you?

Peter: Our Father and all that stuff…

Jesus: Yes…

Peter: What about it?

Jesus: Well how do we ask God to forgive us in that prayer?

Peter: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?” And…?.

Jesus: What about that?

Peter: But this is nothing to do with trespassing…

Jesus: Don’t try to wriggle out of it… You know what it means…

Peter: OK… I know… But what's that got to do with when I have to stop forgiving Andrew or anyone else…

Jesus: Its simple…

Peter: When?

Jesus: Stop forgiving others when you want God to stop forgiving you…
© David A. Campton 2008


gadgetguy said…
I remember when I first learned the story this is based on, I too thought that it gave a definitive number of times that you have to forgive someone. I was often told "that's not what it means" and I gradually came to accept that, (I can be a little thick sometimes), but this little drama clarifies it better and more efficiently than any explanation I've heard.
Well done.

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