Thrive: Surely Seven Is Enough – Lauren Brewer Bass

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
—Matthew 18:21-35

I’m sad to admit it, but I came late to the game of forgiveness. I also came late to a real understanding of the season of Lent. Luckily, one helped me find the other.

One year, with Ash Wednesday approaching, I found myself stewing about words spoken to me by a friend (who is now my husband). He casually mentioned to me that I liked to hold grudges. (Um, what?) It was an ugly realization for me when I admitted that I was holding a grudge against him because he said I held grudges. That probably wasn’t a good sign.

So it was settled. I decided that for Lent I would give up grudges. I tried to give up unforgiveness cold turkey. I pried off each of my stubborn little fingers and, with open hands, let those grudges—big and small—go. (And I kept doing it when I spied them in my hand the next week or day or hour….)

Peter always gets a bad rap for asking if seven times is enough forgiveness. I feel him. In reality, being hurt six times and then going back for another round seems like too much (and forgiving six times was a lot more than I generally offered). After all, forgiving makes us vulnerable, and who likes that?

But Jesus tells us to keep at it. He tells us to see ourselves in our debtors. And he tells us to forgive seven times. Eight times. Seventy times. Eight hundred times. We are to keep at this business of forgiving.

IFLauren Brewer Bass has worked with a refugee resettlement agency, on staff at a church, with nonprofits that assist individuals experiencing homelessness, and on staff at an outdoor adventure company. She has traveled to 41 countries, including Spain where she walked a 500-mile pilgrimage across the Iberian Peninsula. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, Texas, and currently lives and works in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, David, where she writes, gardens, and drinks too much coffee.

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