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.” Matthew 18:21-22
His death turned our world upside down.
He is my brother. I was a new college kid trying to come home to get ready and collect my grades for my first semester when something unusual was at our house. There were many people. My father is not there. My mother and my sisters seem to be confused and distraught. That’s where I suspected something not good happened. I was told my brother died.
He was shot in the head. He was a new civil engineer who was a topnotcher in the nationwide board examinations. He was a new employee in this construction firm who was working in a horizontal project in a flung neighborhood where these goons might have mocked him for doing what is right and killed him on the spot. Afterwards our world was never the same.
Our father stopped actively running the family business. The dead son was his best son. Our mother cried an ocean if not a lake. The dead son was her best son, too. Our aunt, who lived with us, was devastated. The dead nephew is her favorite among tens of nieces and nephews. And us, his brothers and sisters, were hurt and pain resided as if another sibling can go anytime.
His killers were not imprisoned for their crime, as far as we know. Actually, only our father met them. We never knew their names. We never saw their faces. We were hopeless in depending with the justice system and allowed the crime to get into the bottom of the police files. As our brother’s passing changed our lives, these ruthless people changed our hearts.
Each time, my heart claws down into its deep and brings out these moments, there is a feeling of unforgiveness. A question pops out, “Why would I forgive when there was no justice?”. An answer replies, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22. When Peter asked Jesus on this, he was not referring to any justice. He did not include if the sinner asks for mercy. Peter only implied forgiveness on the part of the offended.
Thus, every time I remember this crime against our family, I forgive. Every death anniversary of our brother, I forgive. Every time I look back on how our family suffered through this, I forgive. When I see our family picture with my dead brother in it, I forgive. Every time, I hear the same injustice is being done, I forgive. Every time I visit that day, I forgive. When the hurt comes back, I forgive.
Forgiving is for giving yourself a chance to change your heart. Forgiving is for giving others a chance to change.
Forgiveness is not a one time deal. Forgiveness is a lifetime virtue. It is an on-going part of the healing and growing process. It is seventy-seven times.