When Forgiveness is Incomplete

I was reading Matthew as  part of a Synoptics Gospel class I am taking.  One of the things my instructor said was we often we read scripture through an individual lens.   However, Matthew is meant to be read with a community lens.  In other words when Jesus is saying you to the disciples he really means Ya’ all.  In other words the community of disciples.

If you look at the bigger structure of Matthew the sermon on the mount is not commands to the disciples but they are rather an example of what Gods community should look like. Matthew went to  to clarify and fulfill Jesus purpose and mission of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.  A continual contrast of the the earthly kingdoms vs the disciples heaven on Earth continues to be contrasted in Matthew.  Then later on Matthew discusses forgiveness.


21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]

The above reference was during Jesus’ discourse to his disciples about forgiving others that are a part of our Christian community.  I can’t help but think the words of “I forgive” and going through just a “process of forgiveness” falls far short of living in an intimate community of discipleship with other Christians and far short of what I am reading in the book of Matthew.  We often neglect the nuances and balance that the Synoptic Gospels offer us, neglecting the weightier matters of scripture for a more simplistic understanding and reading of the Gospels.

For me forgiveness is finally complete when I am back in intimate relationship in the community of believers and the ones I have wronged.  Anything less is not what I read as Jesus’ message in Matthew.


4 thoughts on “When Forgiveness is Incomplete

  1. Phil Carlson

    Isn’t it a bit trickier than that? Are you saying that forgiveness also requires that you be in community or relationship with the offender? I can see all types of problems with that requirement. Suddenly, forgiveness is also dependent on the offender being in relationship with me. In other words, I can’t forgive until the offender does something.
    Ideally, forgiveness would also rebuild a trusting relationship. But, that isn’t always the case. If you forgive the priest who sexually abused you, do you also need to be in relationship with them? That doesn’t right to me.

  2. centralityofthegospel Post author

    All I am saying is that this community may be the first time they are experiencing forgiveness and understanding in the details of their story. We, as a discipleship community, represent that community and possibly a sense of forgiveness “possibilities’ for the very first time. The trend to see forgiveness as individualistic vs “in community” is the the thought I was getting at. How much more powerful to experience in community vs just a single individual that may or may not forgive at this specific moment in time. In the area of shame, one forgiver, is fickle… but community is powerful. The shame melts, trust of the community starts, and then change can occur in that community.

    I think what your getting at now though is a term I call “practicing” or working out your faith in community. That is were rebuilding trust takes place.

    And this is what Matthew was getting at in the Sermon on the Mount and most of his book. The contrast between the Kingdom of Earth and Kingdom of Heaven and how a discipleship community should be toward both insiders and outsiders of the faith. I believe we as facilitators are called to represent that community well in how it behaves in the moment of them telling their story.

    But your right in the area is Pastoral sexual abuse the individual restoration is not wise. But the “community” of forgiveness is now an even more powerful requirement in the case of Pastoral sexual abuse. Complex to be sure!

    I have some specific examples I was thinking of that I can share in person at some point that can not be shared on this BLOG.

  3. centralityofthegospel Post author

    I should also state that this is being written from the empathic perspective of a person “feeling forgiven” for a story that they see as shamefully bad!

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