My dad has enjoyed golf for as long as I can remember. He has always been somewhat of a natural athlete, so even though he doesn’t play very often now, he is still very good. I have to say “very good” because if we played together he would beat me very badly. If he is very good then I can still be average. I’m just trying to preserve a little dignity. Anyway, all that golf over all those years means he’s been out in the sun quite a bit.
He recently went to his dermatologist. He had a couple of spots of melanoma beginning. Melanoma can be deadly so the doctor carved the spot out with a scalpel. My dad came home with 16 stitches and a bandage. There’s still enough little boy in him that he wanted to take off the bandage and show me the grossness of the scar. I love that about my dad.
The small operation was over but we still waited for a call from the doctor. We needed to know if there were margins before we could say dad was healed. Margins are areas of healthy tissue. If there aren’t margins then the doctor will have my dad come back in and do another surgery because the cancer is still there and it’s only a matter of time before it spreads again.
I’ve been thinking about forgiveness. Forgiveness can be like surgery to me. There are some things I find easy to forgive. It’s like a spot that doesn’t go very deep into my soul. I forgive and it’s gone. There are other offenses that seem to have much deeper roots. They create a kind of cancer deep down. I forgive but I don’t get a margin so the next time I think of the person who hurt me the feelings all return.
Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness and how many times he had to forgive someone. I think Peter probably had someone in mind when he asked the question. Jesus gave the famous 70 times 7 answer. I used to think that was about 70 times 7 times someone would do the same thing to me. But maybe Jesus was talking about margins. Maybe he was telling us that there are some offenses that have really deep roots. You may think you got it all when you forgave but you didn’t get a margin so you need to forgive again.
Forgiveness is like surgery. Jesus was telling Peter to forgive not for the person who had hurt him. Jesus was saving Peter from the cancer of unforgiveness. If you have someone you can’t forgive maybe you just haven’t gotten a margin yet. Go ahead and let the surgery happen again. Your life depends on it.