When the US Civil War ended in 1865, more than half a million soldiers lay dead, the economy was shattered, and people remained deeply divided politically. The observance of Mother’s Day in the United States began with two women’s efforts for peace and reconciliation during this time of anguish. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for an International Mother’s Day on which women would unite in opposing war in all its forms. A few years later, Anna Reeves Jarvis began her annual Mother’s Friendship Day in an effort to reunite families and neighbors alienated by the war. There is always great suffering when friends and families are fractured and unwilling to forgive.
The gospel of Jesus Christ brings the promise of peace and reconciliation with God and with each other. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who sinned against him (Matt. 18:21), the Lord surprised everyone with His answer of “seventy times seven” (v.22). Then He told an unforgettable story about a servant who had received forgiveness and failed to pass it on (vv.23-35). As God freely forgives us, so He requires that we extend what we have received to others.