We all know what forgiveness looks like, even if we do not wish to entertain it when things go against us. Peter asks how many times to forgive and Christ ripostes with a parable (Matt. 18.21-35). This hard response is what we consider to be forgiveness. The ability to give a person the benefit of the doubt and to ignore the hurt to ourselves. Or at least subsume it in a way that will not effect our own psyche. To reach out in a loving manner knowing that it hurts to embrace someone who has wronged us and is capable of re-offending, time and time and time again. What about the person who has done the wrong thing or voiced the wrong concerns or demeaned the other and thus requires forgiveness? Is there something here in this action of this person that requires us to rethink ourselves, for it is us we are referring to when we are in the wrong as much as the other? Forgiveness also has to rise within our own selves when we are that person who is acting so against Christ and not loving as we should.We are so guilty, especially in the small things in life, let alone the greater. How many times I wonder do people complain about others, in a faith setting, when it comes to the contribution that they are making? or perhaps when things do not go quite the way we want them to and we lash out at authority simply to rid ourselves of our own frustrations? We are so judgemental of those around us that we forget to look closely at ourselves. Paul in his letter to the Romans makes this clear (Rom. 14.1-14) and yet we are still so dreadful at fulfilling our obedience in Christ that we blame everyone else. We are asked to give of ourselves. We are not asked to make a judgement on whether others are doing the right or wrong thing in the eyes of God. Yet, we so often do, we make judgement calls on what everyone around us should or should not be doing. We do not respect other's decisions with regard to what God has asked of them but wish to impose what we think they ought to do. Or more often what we think God wants them to do. We often make decisions for others because 'we know them' rather than allowing them to make their own decisions. We often assume a response rather than allowing others to express a response. Even a negative response is a response that needs to be taken seriously.
Once we begin to look closely at our actions we then need to actually begin the process of forgiveness by loving ourselves. In the acknowledgement of our judgementalism we begin to see our own interactions in the light of God's love. We begin to understand that God has called us out of our own slavery to the hubris, pride and sin of thinking that we are up there with God. In beginning to understand our own faults and loving ourselves we begin the process of redemption. Just as the Joseph's family had to trust in God fully and understand that Joseph did not desire retribution but understood God's purposes of forgiveness by seeing the long trajectory of God's plans (Gen. 50.15-21). Only when we truly surrender to what God requires of us we will be able to give to the extent that God requires. By giving way our judgements we allow God to judge. By allowing God to flow into our lives we are able to allow our love to flow into the things we give.
In asking how many times to forgive we forget that each time it means that we have to (for)give our selves. We also need to be strong enough to stand up and state the truth of our forgiveness / God's demands even if we are afraid of reprisal from those around us. We need to have the humility to accept God's wishes and give ourselves fully. It is we who are so often on the wrong side of Christ that need to learn how to forgive our own selves before we begin to turn to others in hope of their forgiveness.