Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
‘Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?’
Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.’ – Matthew 18.21 – 23
The amount “seventy times seventy” is not necessarily about quantity. It is an invitation to a quality of life grounded in the spirit of forgiveness, which leads to a life of freedom.
The spirit of forgiveness releases our accounts we hold against God, life, one another, and our self, and also energizes us inwardly to experience the offenses and slights and criticism of life (and other events that offend), more like a window and less like a table-cloth.
By way of analogy, here is the difference:
Whereas with a a window, water (the offensive events life and words of our fellow brother and sisters) rolls right off; with a table cloth water soaks in, and perhaps even leaves a mark. This analogy teaches the important principles of non-identification (the window) in contrast to identification (the table clothe).
The spirit of forgiveness is cultivated in us by a daily inward practice of non-identification. This is a practice of inward attentiveness, calling upon our three primary perception centers: thought, emotion, body-movement. All three interweave and participate in our experience of identification. If there is one word that describes the state of humankind and all its difficulties emotionally, it is identification. We get identified with experiences, words, events, thoughts, substances, desires, moods, etc.
Identification is what breeds the difficulty in our relationships and forgiveness – and often limits the quality of forgiveness in our life. The more we can work on non-identification the more we can live in the spirit of forgiveness. But here is the most beautiful truth: forgiveness is the primary key to release us from the intellectual, emotional and physical quick-sand of identification. Forgiveness is the life-blood of a daily practice of non-identification.
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