This morning I was reflecting on some of the Scripture I read yesterday (I can be a bit slow on the draw when it comes to spiritual insight), and Luke 17:3-4 came to mind in an unusual way. The text reads, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day he comes and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." Words similar to these are found on Jesus' lips on more than one occasion. It is a command we are too often slow to keep. Awhile back when ISIS terrorists beheaded six Libyan Christians, to the amazement of even the Christian world, their families went on national television declaring their forgiveness of the murderers. Most of us would at least require months, if not years, to get to the place where we can forgive, but they recognized forgiveness not as a nice gesture, but as a command from the Lord, which they took very seriously.
As I read this text and thought about the command to forgive seven times a day, or as Jesus told Peter, "seventy times seven," I became aware that this is not a command given without a context. Jesus can command this kind of forgiveness because it is the kind of forgiveness he offers us. I think back over the years and over the many times I stumbled over the same weaknesses, and of the times I therefore figured God must have given up on me now, and I realize Jesus isn't telling me to do something he hasn't already done over and over again. He commands us to forgive because that's what he did, and it is how we demonstrate to the world that he lives in us. An unwillingness to forgive, to be reconciled, is proof that no matter how loudly and convincingly we preach, no matter how much we sing and pray, we ourselves haven't received the forgiveness of Christ. This is true not only of our need to forgive others, but also of our need to forgive ourselves.
When we've failed (again), it can be hard to believe that with simple repentance we can be forgiven, but amazingly enough, that's how it works. If we believe, it works. I am grateful tonight that what Christ commands he also enables, and that he only commands what he has already done. Repeatedly. Seventy times seven.