The Hardest Thing

By Kristen Gunn

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if my brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him, 25 and, as he could not pay, the lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


In the November 1972 issue of Guideposts, Corrie ten Boom tells the unforgettable story of forgiving, with God’s help, a former guard of the concentration camp where she was once imprisoned and her sister was killed:

“‘Jesus, help me!’ I cried. … And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into [the former guard’s] stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. … ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’”

Even for someone who was by that point a “professional Christian,” this sheer act of the will in forgiving her fellow Christian wasn’t easy. “[T]o me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do,” she says. But knowing what she had to do, and finding her own strength faltering, she cried out to the Lord for help, and he indeed answered, confirming her unfelt act with a subsequent, felt sense of his love, even (extraordinarily) flowing through her body.

If there’s anything ten Boom seems to want her readers to know in this piece (which I commend), it’s that God wants to answer the prayer of the person asking for help to forgive another Christian — who is, after all, mystically “another Christ” and temporally someone else “on their way” in him. God loves such a one and will do this time and time again: even seventy-times-seven times.

As we follow suit and forgive, even and especially if we have to pray for help to do so, may we find ourselves sharing mysteriously in the one experience of the One who first loved and forgave us.

Kristen Gunn is a lay leader and has an M.T.S. from Nashotah House Theological Seminary. In her free time she enjoys learning Latin and kayaking as much as possible.

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Iglesia Anglicana de Chile
Grace Episcopal Church, Ocala, Florida


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