Forgiveness is at the heart of our Christian faith. It is Good News. Scripture could read, “For God so forgives the world, He gave us his only begotten Son.” Forgiveness and love go together. They walk hand in hand. Forgiveness believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Forgiveness is future oriented. If we don’t forgive, we stay locked in the past. We hold on to our grudges and anger and nurse our hurt. Forgiveness sets us free from the past and helps us move forward.
Rembrandt’s painting, “The Denial of Peter” recalls Peter denying Jesus three times. “I do not know him” Peter says to the servant girl. According to scripture, the next thing Peter does know is “the cock crows three times and the Lord turns and looks at Peter.” (Luke 22:61) Peter is spinning out of control. Yesterday he cuts off the soldier’s ear with a sword and today he stares at a charcoal fire. It is the proverbial hot seat. He hits bottom. He knows of the need for forgiveness.
Confession leads to forgiveness, not repression. Denial leads to repression. It is pretty easy to live a life of denial. How often we experience pain only to deny it. A little lie and we quickly deny it. Silence can be a polite form of denial. It still is repression.
Even when God enters the picture and comes into our life, we play it “safe” and avoid God’s presence which again is a form of denial. Denial, repression, and avoidance are more than psychological words or labels. They are deep, spiritual concepts, describing a state of being that is deluded from reality by thinking we can control the outcome or the future.
Don’t forget, as Jesus walks past Peter and towards the Cross, he walks past you and me as well. He is nailed to the Cross of forgiveness. The Cross hurts. Here at the foot of the Cross, we confess. Confession gives birth to a life of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not one-and-done. Forgiveness opens us to a new life, a life with God. Recall when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus says to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy times seven.”
No doubt, Peter began to calculate in his mind the correct number. He knew instinctively seventy times seven is a lot. Like most of us, Peter grasps for a number or the correct answer based on some kind of mathematical equation. The truth of forgiveness is Jesus is not trying to stump us or lay down a law that is impossible to reach. Rather, He is opening our minds to think about life in the kingdom of God.
Forgiveness is a kingdom value. It is not only about our forgiving others seventy times seven times; but don’t forget, it is about our being forgiven—a lot. There is an infinite amount of forgiveness within God’s kingdom which is why a little confession is good for the soul.
Image credit” The Denial of Peter, c. 1660 by Rembrandt. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.