Not a suggestion. Not an option. Not even an inch of wiggle room. Jesus makes it pretty clear that one of the duties of his followers is to forgive.
When Jesus told the disciples even if someone sins against them seven times in one day but comes back and repents…they must forgive. Recognizing the difficulty of such a command, they cried, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). They knew without faith they were facing “mission impossible.” Jesus responds by helping them see forgiveness as part of their job description. He parallels the call to forgive with a servant who would not expect to sit down and relax with his boss before completing his work. The servant simply fulfills his responsibility. That’s the perspective they were to have with forgiveness. No heroics. No medal of commendation. Simple duty.
And so forgiveness is not something reserved for the Amish or exceptionally merciful people. All believers are called to forgive no matter what the offense and apparently no matter how often it occurs. If someone repents, we forgive. It’s our duty….
Duties aren’t always convenient or fun. Most nurses aren’t thrilled about all the paperwork that accompanies their job. Teachers probably don’t gravitate toward cafeteria supervision. One of my favorite examples of doing one’s duty is the Nyquil commercial. A coughing man opens a door and says, “Dave, I hate to interrupt but I gotta’ take a sick day tomorrow.” The camera spans and reveals Dave to be a toddler standing in his crib. The tagline: Dads don’t take sick days….
Duties comprise a huge part of life. And some, like forgiveness, seem as impossible to fulfill as lifting a ten ton weight. That’s why we need faith to accomplish the task. We don’t even need a lot of faith. Mustard-seed size will do just fine. You’re probably familiar with the TV and movie series Mission Impossible. Agents receive a recording with instructions to complete a difficult task. After accepting the assignment, the recording self-destructs.
I think forgiveness may be a bit like that. Once we accept it as a part of our mission in life and call upon God to help us activate the faith needed to complete it, a kind of self-destruction takes place. We die and Jesus lives.