Forgive and Forget?


Epiphany 6 Tuesday

Matthew 5:25

“Come to terms with your adversary quickly while you are still on the road with him lest your adversary hand you over to the judge and you are thrown into prison. I tell you: Truly, you will not get out of there until you have paid the last penny.”

In the previous verse, Christ talked about what the person who has offended or angered the neighbor should do. But here he talks about the person who was offended by the neighbor…He means to say: “If you offend the neighbor, you should kindly reconcile with him. But the offended party should let himself be reconciled and gladly forgive.” Now, this too is a subtle point, and many people are able to cover their inner rogue nicely by saying that they would gladly forgive, but not forget. For there is always the cover of saying that the anger against something evil was just. And they think they have good cause and they are in the right and act correctly. This is why he warns once again and shows that the Fifth Commandment not only prohibits anger but also commands to forgive and forget gladly the injustice one has suffered, as God has done, and continues to do, with us when he forgives our sin so as to erase it from the ledger and no longer remember it, Isaiah 43:25. The point here is not to forget it so as to no longer being allowed to think of it, but so as to have a heart that is as friendly disposed toward the neighbor as it was before the neighbor offended you. But if the stick remains in the heart so that you are not as friendly and kind toward the neighbor as before, then you have not forgotten the offense or wholeheartedly forgiven it. You are still the rogue who comes before the altar with his sacrifice and wishes to serve God while you are filled with anger, envy, and hatred in the heart. But very few people consider this. Most just walk about in pretty appearances and do not see how their heart is disposed toward this commandment that does not tolerate any anger or grudge against the neighbor. But, as has been said, it is true that there must be and should be anger. But see that the anger proceeds as it should and as it has been commended to you: You should be angry on account of your office and for God’s sake, but not on your own account. You must not mingle your person and your office. As far as your person is concerned, you should not be angry with anyone, no matter how greatly you have been offended. But where your office demands it, you must be angry, even where you have not suffered any harm personally. This is how a pious judge is angry with the evildoer, although he personally does not wish anything bad on him and would rather leave him unpunished. Accordingly, his anger issues from a heart that is nothing but love toward the neighbor, and only the evil deed that must be punished must bear the judge’s anger. If it were not for the evil deed, there would be neither anger nor punishment. But if your brother has done something against you and made your angry, but has asked you for forgiveness and puts aside the evil deed, your anger is to disappear as well. For what is the origin of the secret grudge you nonetheless keep in your heart, although the work and cause of your anger is gone and other works have come forth instead from someone who has become a different person, a new tree, with new fruits, who now loves you and honors you most highly by accusing himself before you and punishing himself? You would be a desperate person before God and the world if you were not to show yourself kindly in return and forgive him wholeheartedly–you would justly incur the judgment Christ here threatens.

St. Louis ed., 7:438-440.

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