Today's Gospel in Art - How often must I forgive my brother?

  • Patrick van der Vorst

Forgive Thy Brother, by Scott Erickson,  2017 © Scott Erickson artist

Forgive Thy Brother, by Scott Erickson, 2017 © Scott Erickson artist

Gospel of 13th August 2020 - Matthew 18:21-19:1

Peter went up to Jesus and said, 'Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?' Jesus answered, 'Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

'And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master's feet. "Give me time" he said "and I will pay the whole sum." And the servant's master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. "Pay what you owe me" he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, "Give me time and I will pay you." But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. "You wicked servant," he said "I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?" And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.'

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and he left Galilee and came into the part of Judaea which is on the far side of the Jordan.

Reflection on the Painting

The beauty of our Christian faith is that we know that God doesn't just forgive us only once or twice… He forgives us every time we go to Him with purity of heart asking for forgiveness. It isn't as if we have been given a quota each for number of times we can ask for forgiveness. However, if this is true of our relationship with God, it therefore also has to be true of our relationships with others. We have to forgive our friends too and never refuse an offer of reconciliation. Forgiveness is not just reserved for our relationship with God, but it is also applicable in our relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters.

Our painting by Scott Erickson is pretty self-explanatory, so I won't expand on it. A clear and poignant composition. When discussing the topic of forgiveness with friends, we often hear the lines used 'I can forgive, yes, but I can't forget!' Forgiveness is a choice we make. It is not a feeling or an emotional notion. Also, forgiveness does not mean we simply forget about what happened or what a person did to us. Forgiveness means we choose not to try to remember it! Remembering is of course fine, and it would be hard not to remember some things. But it is another thing entirely to be dwelling on it. And therein lies forgiveness… not to dwell on the hurt caused by the other person, but simply to move on…


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Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Scott Erickson

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