Let’s face it. Jesus can be really inconvenient.
I mean, sure, it looks all nice and lovely the way Jesus is described in the Bible to be healing and teaching and preaching and dying on the cross and being raised again so that we and the whole world might have new life. But then, when we really start listening closely and watching closely to what Jesus is saying and what Jesus is doing, we hear things like his answer to the disciples about how often we should forgive someone. Not just once or twice, but seventy times seven, which is basically Jesus saying forgive times infinity and forever (Matthew 18:21-25).
Jesus can be really inconvenient.
But what if I don’t want to forgive?
But what if I’d like to nurture a grudge?
Or send off a real zinger of a Facebook post of response to someone else’s post about how dumb someone else is for how they act or what they believe?
Jesus can be really inconvenient.
Now the passage is talking specifically about how we should behave towards other members of the Church (because in case we missed it the Church is full of imperfect people who sin and fall short of the glory of God all the time, just like the rest of the world, and so Church folks regularly struggle with behaving well, just like the rest of the world). Yet of course this discussion of forgiveness is bigger than just for the Church folks.
This charge from Jesus to forgive is for our families (is there anyone from whom you are withholding forgiveness?). This forgiveness work is for our communities (think fighting amongst administrations, parents, and teachers, or infighting on town boards or amongst local organizations not playing well together or anyone else just generally pointing the finger here and there and everywhere). This forgiveness work is even for ourselves (are we hitting ourselves repeatedly with a virtual wet noodle because of mistakes we’ve made, maybe even including not forgiving others?)
And we’re nearing election time, so maybe it’s especially important to note that this forgiveness work includes everyone within the political sphere; our local and state and nationally elected officials, democrats, republicans, independents, and those who don’t vote, feel disenfranchised, and/or are specifically working with ill will to topple the whole system and cause chaos.
Jesus says we should be forgiving them all. Especially the people we don’t like, don’t agree with, and even fear.
Jesus can be seriously inconvenient.
Yet we also need to remember that Jesus’ admonition to forgive others is given alongside his work of casting out demons, squarely opposing the forces of evil that reigned in people’s hearts and in the oppressive Roman government and religious leaders who had gone astray. Jesus lived as the Light of the world and died so that the Light of the world might ultimately vanquish these powers in the final narrative.
And the work of forgiveness, as God in Christ makes it possible to clear out our spiritual and mental closets of all the thoughts and feelings that do not serve God; this work of forgiveness prepares us with a new degree of clarity to see and perceive all that is broken and falls short of the glory of God. Then we lift these things, these people, and our own beings repeatedly to God asking for mercy upon us all. Asking that we be shown how we as want-to-be disciples can learn to better cling to this inconvenient Jesus who both stands in opposition to evil and all of its manifestations, and who lays claim by the power of grace to forgiveness as part of the central motif of God’s love that makes such resistance possible.
Jesus may be inconvenient, but Jesus is consistent and persistent and wondrous in love and capacity to change hearts and lives and even this world, which is at the moment so overshadowed by clouds of turmoil and tumult.
So, let us lay claim to this Jesus as the centering force of our narratives of forgiving and justice-pursuing lives. For in truth if any of us can hear this call to forgiveness and world-changing love rising up in justice, God in Christ has certainly already laid claim to us.