To be perfectly honest, when I start to think about forgiveness my mind goes first to the people or situations where I have been wronged and where I am still struggling to forgive. I think about those contexts where I am still angry or hurt and I am simply not able to forgive yet. I wish I could forgive, but I am just not there yet. Sometimes it can be relatively simple or easy to forgive. But other times, it is a slow and uncertain process.
Jesus teaches and talks about forgiveness over and over again in the gospels. In this week’s reading, he tells a parable about a king who forgave a HUGE debt owed to him by a servant. That same servant insisted that a coworker pay a much smaller debt just moments after he had been freed from his own obligation. The king is enraged when he finds out and the parable ends in harsh warning for the consequences of not forgiving. This is puzzling, given what we hear from Jesus about God’s gracious and loving generosity toward us in so many places throughout the gospels.
Mind you, parables are not to be taken literally and are not even analogies. The are many-layered stories that offer glimpses of what God is like and help us see bits of what God intends for us and all creation. And they cannot be read outside the whole of Jesus story where God’s unending, unconditional love is at the core.
I think that God knows us and loves us, and fully understands how hard it is to forgive sometimes. I think that God wants us to be moved by the kind of compassion that led the king in this parable to forgive a huge debt, yet God knows that we are sometimes not ready, not able. I also think that compassion is the key – when we find compassion for the situation and the person who has wronged us, forgiveness becomes a possibility. In some instances, that takes just a moment. In other instances, it can take long years. All the while, God is there: loving us, forgiving us, and walking with us.