This Sunday, the first Sunday of September 2021, speaks to us about the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, which illustrates the importance of forgiving others. This parable provides an interesting contrast between the teachings of the Old and New Testament concerning forgiveness.
Peter asked the Lord, “Lord if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”, to which Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). According to the Old Testament, God promised to forgive sins but also to punish the guilty and their children to the third and fourth generations. The rabbinic teachers taught that a person must forgive three times. You see Peter was quite generous in saying seven rather than the rabbinic three times, but Jesus retorted and said, “seventy times seven”, basically saying to Peter that we are to forgive others without counting the number at all! Therefore, Christ in this parable set down the principle of unlimited forgiveness.
One of the most meaningful passages from the Gospels is the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. (Matthew 6:12) Another meaningful passage is from the Gospel of Mark 11:25, where it says, “When you stand and pray, forgive anything you have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done”.
Thus, as Orthodox Christians we are called upon to freely forgive others. Based upon the experience of God’s forgiveness in Christ, we as His followers are to forgive others from the heart and, “rid ourselves of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any kind. Instead, be kind and tender hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ”. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
So let us on this the beginning of the ecclesiastical new year commit ourselves to the principle of unlimited forgiveness and “love one another”.