The Funny Business of Forgiveness
Through the many years that I’ve been drawing Agnus Day, my weekly comic strip, I’ve come up with some duds as well as a few that have struck people’s funny bones. Among the more successful, according to the feedback, is the one presented here, drawn back in 2011. It’s inspired by Jesus’ direction to Peter that, rather than the seven times that Peter thought was an act of generosity, Peter ought to forgive another 77 times.
I think it works on a couple of levels:
First, the name “FaceBible” is funny. It plays with the fact that the word “bible” means “book” but it also calls to mind that many of us spend more time and energy evaluating our lives through social media than in the Scriptures, even if we regard the Bible as our source of guidance and inspiration.
Then there’s this: who of us hasn’t had the experience of a friend behaving badly on social media and who of us hasn’t been tempted to “unfriend” such a bad actor? The idea that an app might help us weed through our friend list is at the same time hilarious and frightening – the best kind of humor.
The story that Jesus tells in response to Peter’s reasoned question brings its own laughs. Confronted by his overwhelming debt to the king, that some have calculated as being the equivalent of 200,000 years of 12-hour work days, the servant begs for more time! Hilarious.
Hilarious and sobering.
The king’s response to his ridiculous request? Forgiveness of the debt.
Preaching on this same story, John Chrysostom, the early 5th century Archbishop of Constantinople, invited his hearers to consider their own indebtedness to God saying,
What then are God’s good deeds? He created us from nothing, he made the whole visible world for us, the heaven, the sea, the earth, animals, plants and seeds. I must be brief because of the infinite number of his works. Into us alone of all that are on earth he breathed a living soul. He planted a garden for us. He gave us a helpmate and set us over all the brute species, and crowned us with glory and honor. And yet, after all this, when humanity turned out ungrateful toward its benefactor, he thought us worthy of an even greater gift – forgiveness. (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, vol. 1b, [IVP, 2002] p. 86)
And Peter (and we) want to keep score of the grievances we have with others. It’s too funny.
Originally published Sept. 20, 2017.
You can contact University Pastor Jim here
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