Seventy times seven

Cold wars are a serious problem in my family and lately they are becoming annoyingly common; for instance, for the most part of last week and the previous week, my big sister and I were not talking to each other. What’s funny is that we’d fought over something so trivial – splitting house chores. At first the conversation had been going ok, but after a while we started disagreeing and before we knew things escalated…next thing we were going our separate ways.

A day later, I’d already gotten over the anger and I was ready to reconcile. My sister, on the other hand, seemed grumpy. I tried talking to her a couple of times but she blatantly ignored me. At some point I started panicking when I realized she was so bent on keeping to herself, that she would use alternative doors, so we wouldn’t bump into each other.

After a careful examination of my conscience, I realized that even though the things I’d told her were true, they were hurtful. Furthermore, the situation had been worsened by the fact that I’d said them with my voice raised. Possibly if I had said the same things calmly under different circumstances, they would not have stung as much as they did. Granted, I had said them in response to what she had told me and that’s why I had gotten angry in the first place. Since I knew she wouldn’t talk to me, I sent her a text apologising.

Still, she did not talk to me. I gave up trying and asked God to soften her heart because I could not understand how she could carry anger around for that long. I missed talking to her, but I did not know how else to reach out. Eventually, she started talking to me after a week. Of utter silence.

Over time I have realised that when I hold grudges, they consume me from within, so if I stay angry for long I end up hurting. That’s why I try not to stay angry for longer than necessary. Furthermore, there’s that reading about not letting the sun go down when still angry; meaning, even if it is alright to get angry sometimes, we should not drag it out.

“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day… Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you…

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God as has forgiven you through Christ”. (Ephesians 4:26-31).

Those words keep ringing in my head whenever I’m angry…and I thank God for them because they keep me from holding grudges, even when I feel someone has really hurt me. Coincidentally, the Sunday readings in church the last two Sundays focused so much on forgiveness.

One thing I got from this past Sunday’s reading is that if you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others as well. That is a prerequisite we must fulfil before seeking God’s forgiveness. That got me thinking, most of the time we walk around holding grudges against people, yet when we sin, we ask God for forgiveness, forgetting we haven’t forgiven others ourselves.

Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) teaches on that. In a nutshell, it is about a servant who owed his king millions of dollars, so the king ordered that he be sold as a slave, together with his wife and children. The servant dropped on his knees, imploring the king to be patient with him because in time he would pay everything. The King felt sorry for him and forgave him his debt and let him go.

When this servant was on his way, he met up a fellow servant who owed him only a few dollars. Enraged, he grabbed him by the collar, asking him to pay all he owed him. The poor man fell on his knees asking for more time, just like the servant had begged the king, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. Instead he had him thrown in jail until he cleared his debt.

Other servants saw what had happened and they reported it to the king. Incensed, the king ordered that the unforgiving servant be brought to him. He castigated the servant for not showing mercy to his fellow servant. Subsequently, he had the unforgiving servant thrown behind bars, where he’d be punished until he repaid all the millions he owed the king.

As Jesus told His disciples, that is how God the Father will treat all those who do not forgive others. We should forgive each other seventy times seven times. This is just figurative. What Jesus was trying to say is that we should forgive as many times as possible because our human nature makes us prone to sin. That way, even God will forgive us.

On that same note, we are highly discouraged from avenging ourselves. In Romans 12:17-19 we’re told, “If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it”.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt during this covid period is that being cooped up indoors with your loved ones could easily make them seem like foes, because everyone starts focusing on the small, insignificant things… We need to overlook those trivialities, because it’s in so doing that we can live in peace and harmony…and when fights inevitably break out, forgiveness is key. That way, our humanness doesn’t pull us away from God’s grace.

 

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