Jesus refuses to put limits on forgiveness, compassion, and prayer.
Many times, Jesus’ followers and detractors want to find a way to do what Jesus says but on their own terms and conditions. They think they have done enough and to require more is asking too much.
For example, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive the person who has wronged him. Peter thinks he has come up with a generous amount when he suggests seven times. Jesus is not willing to accept Peter’s small mindedness and hint of self righteousness and blows open the notion of forgiveness to 70 times 7. This is an outlandish number that shocks even us today who live in more compassion and less rigid times.
What about the time when Jesus was questioned by an expert in the Jewish law. This man knows the great commandment to love God and to love your neighbor. Still, he wanted to find a loophole, some way where his love of neighbor doesn’t have to include that man over there, or this unsightly woman over here, or that enemy on the side of the road. Jesus explains through the story that there are no limits to who falls into the neighbor category and there are no limits to your responsibility as a neighbor.
As Jesus experiences his tortuous death in the most public and shameful of ways, he shows us that there are no limits to the life of prayer. Three of the last 7 things Jesus says before his death are prayers:
- “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
- “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”
- “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!”
How many times do we forget to pray or refuse to pray because our situation is too small or too painful or too devastating. Can you imagine yourself on the cross in that awful and stinging agony and having prayers and even words of scripture on your lips like Jesus does?
The reality for Jesus was that even in that dark, evil, and excruciating space where everything in this human snapshot was completely wrong, prayers were on his lips and he never stopped communicating with his Father.
I am sorry if you think you have forgiven enough. Jesus says there are no limits to your forgiveness.
I am sorry if you want to categorize who is deserving of your neighborly service. Jesus says that barriers to our compassion and service are a human thing not a God thing.
I am sorry if you feel that you are past the point of needing to pray. Jesus demonstrates that prayer is appropriate in all circumstances and to the very end of our limits and life.
Stop trying to find loopholes and ways out of forgiveness, compassion, and prayer. Jesus is not interested in your human tendency to get out of what is truly important. Be a person of abundant forgiveness, eager compassion, and constant prayers. Jesus wants to show you how.