Again?

And we're off... After much plotting and planning behind the scenes the theme for next year's 4 Corners Festival has been announced... Scandalous Forgiveness. Some, who know me better and have experienced/suffered under my ministry might well say "Oh, are you off on that old hobby horse of yours again!?" I have reflected, spoken and written a lot about this subject and particularly how it applies to this wounded little part of God's world, but I consistently suggest that it isn't my hobby horse but Jesus' hobby horse... he consistently pointed to this as a key teaching, and if we are authentically trying to follow him then we need to take this seriously... 

Well, not always too seriously... My friends and colleagues Steve Stockman and Jim Deeds have already shared their reflections on this in different forms... Here's my starter for ten... I've posted it before and it owes something to both John Bell and Graham Maule and Riding Lights... but most of it is straight from Jesus...

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 or some other ridiculously huge number… And well, I’ve already forgiven him 76 times so I’m wondering if the next time is the 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 first…
Jesus:       That’s hardly the right attitude… I didn’t mean that you only had to forgive someone 77 times, or 70 times 7 times before hitting them with a baseball bat…
Peter:        A what?
Jesus:       Never mind…
Peter:        So 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 when do I have to stop forgiving Andrew or anyone else… 
Jesus:     its simple…
Peter:      When… 
Jesus:     When you want God to stop forgiving you…
Selah

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