© 2014 John Casimir O'Keefe

The Forgiving Bookie

One day, while Jesus was explaining how forgiveness opens us to the promises of the Divine, Peter was a bit concerned and asked “I get that I need to forgive others when they’ve done me harm, but if they keep harming me, how many time should I forgive a person? Let’s say they screw me over seven times, do I forgive each time?” With that Jesus smiled and looked at him and said, “Why do you desire to limit forgiveness? I never said forgive them seven times, I said ‘forgive them.’ But, if you want me to put a number on it I will, let’s say if a person continues to harm you, you have to forgive them 490 times.” Peter looked at Jesus and said, “Let me see if I got this right, if a person harms me I need to forgive them.” Jesus replied, “Yup.” Peter added, “And if they do the same thing to me, I need to forgive them again?” Jesus smiled and said, “Yup.” So, Peter looking confused said, “That means I would have to forgive them forever.” Jesus smiled and said, “There you go; now you get it. Let me share a story with you.”

“Think of the Kingdom of the Divine as a kind Bookie who seeks to forgive all that he is owned. One day, the Bookie decides to close accounts, and forgive all the money’s owed to him. So, he told his enforcers to gather everyone together at his bar who owed him money so he could share the news. One of the men brought to the Bookie owed over $100,000.00. As he stood before the Bookie he cried, ‘I can’t pay – I have nothing. I know I owe you more than anyone, but there’s no way I can give you what I don’t have.’ The Bookie smiled and looked at the man and said, ‘Your debt is cleared, you own me nothing. I am letting you slide on this. You don’t have to pay me anything. Your account will be current.’ The man was so excited, his debt was forgiven and he could live life without fear of the Bookie.

As the man was leaving the bar, he met a guy standing in line to talk with the Bookie. The man owned the first man $100.00. The first man got angry and grabbed the man by the throat and screamed, ‘You son-of-a-bitch. You owe me 100 bucks and I better see that money by the end of the day or I’ll kick your ass.’ There was no way the second man could pay anything, he also had nothing to his name. He looked at the first man and begged him to forgive his debt, but the first man refused. The first man told the second man that he would come to his house and take what he wanted to collect what he owed him.

Upon hearing the commotion going on outside, the Bookie went to see what was happening. The first man looked at the Bookie and said, ‘This guy owes me 100 buck, and I’m going to collect it from him.’ The Bookie, shocked, told the first man, “I just forgave you $100,000.00 of your debt, now you are after this guy for a crummy 100 bucks? I gave you a break and forgave your debt; shouldn’t you do the same to the people who owe you?’ The first man looked and replied, “Well, yea – but I need that money.’ The Bookie, looking at his enforcers, told the first man his debts were no longer forgiven and that he had to come up with the money owed in a week or his enforcers would visit him every day until the debt was paid in full.

You see, you want the harm you cause to others to be forgiven, so you need to forgive others who do you harm you, no matter how many times. This is how the Divine works; if you are unable to forgive others, truly forgive – not just lip service – the Divine will not forgive you.

— Matthew 18:21-35

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