8 November 2019Matthew 18:15-35
Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.' (vs. 21-22)
Psalm: Psalm 100
Because of the nature of my father’s job, I moved a lot as a child and teenager – I had two primary schools, two junior schools and then two Grammar schools in my pre018 education! I was always the ‘new kid on the block’ and an easy target for those already established in each place.
I experienced extensive bullying at all of my schools ranging from name calling, having my chair pulled out from underneath me, deliberate plots to hurt me and my family, to having ink poured in my hair and compass stabbed into various parts of my anatomy during lessons.
Though some of the things may seem small in many respects, they all had an effect on my self-confidence and, despite loving school and learning, I did get to a stage of dreading going to school on certain days of the week because I knew that lessons on those days would include the folk who bullied me mercilessly.
Because of the knock effect of their behaviour, I find this passage about forgiveness a difficult one to deal with. I remember the names of all of the bullies in my life as a child and as an adult (for bullies appear in adult life too) and can even tell you what they did or said and how it mad me feel. Forgive? Why should I forgive – they hurt me and it still hurts!
In the end I had a long conversation with God about the whole business, supported by a box of tissues and the peace and quiet of the Chapel at Cliff College one late evening. I talked through all of the incidents, named the names and spoke the feelings. I then asked God to forgive me for allowing them the power over my life and making me feel the way I did then because of what happened so long ago.
It may sound a strange perversion but for me it brought a sense of letting go. Letting go of the past. Letting go of the hurt. Letting go of the way the bullying had shaped me. I cannot say that I changed overnight but I can say that I now feel free of the past in ways which have allowed be to grow on and stand tall in new situations and in the face of people who, even now, would bully me to become something and someone I am not meant to be.
- Seventy times seven – that’s an awful lot of letting go but is there one small thing you can bring to God and ask for help in releasing it to allow you to move forward?