Posted by: Mythicist Matt | May 3, 2011

Forgiveness: How Many Times?


Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB)

Sounds like Peter had a legitimate question.  How many times should we forgive?  If we’re being honest, I bet at one point or another we’ve all asked for a conditional pass when it comes to extending forgiveness.  I know I have, several times.  What about if someone sins against me in a big way?  Are some sins weightier than others?  What if a friend deceives me for the sole purpose of getting close to my wife?  Then, once he has weaseled his way into her heart, he seduces her, takes advantage of her and destroys my family.  Do I forgive this as well? What about the part she played in all of it? Surely there must be concessions; there has to be a limit to all of this right?  After all, we’re only human.  How can we forgive such things?

The answer Jesus gives is hard to swallow sometimes.  It can be especially difficult to put into practice.  He basically says that there is no number.  We are to forgive without condition, on an infinite level.

Jesus follows this statement with a parable.  The lesson taken from the parable is that our Father in Heaven has forgiven us; therefore we have no right to hold anything, against anyone, ever.  No questions.  And if we willingly choose to withhold forgiveness, there are some serious consequences.

“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.  My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:34-35 (NASB)

I have found it easy for me to say that I forgive someone.  Sometimes I even think I do, only to be confronted with the bitter reality of my true feelings being exposed somewhere down the road.  The trouble is, how do I make myself feel a certain way?  I mean, I know what I should feel, I know that I should forgive, I want to, but I just can’t do it.  The wounds are simply too deep.  I believe in moments when I am unable to extend forgiveness, even when people have hurt me deeply, the reason I can’t do it is because I have failed to see myself for who I really am.  It has nothing to do with the person who has wronged me and everything to do with me.  I am no better than anyone else; I am a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.  If I am able to step outside myself and see this broken mess of a man, I can also see a forgiven man.  I can see the cross, and I can see the fact that I am clothed with Christ.  I don’t deserve such a wonderful gift.  This is grace, and this makes forgiving others so much easier because I am looking at others in the same way the Father looks at me; with eyes of mercy.

Will you resolve your issues? Will you finally let go of that friend or family member that has wronged you?  ”Forgiveness is without beginning and without end, it occurs continuously, every day, for it comes from God.” Bonhoeffer, On Forgiveness, (1935)


Responses

  1. Matthew, I really really have tough time with this teaching about Forgivenss. Gosh I hold on to a harsh word from my husband for weeks! Way after he has apologised. Sometimes I think Jesus is a little unrealistic. But I know his way works, I have been at it for a while.

    The scenario with weasely friend and your wife. Well just pray and hope it never happens:)

  2. The way of Jesus is difficult at times. I don’t believe it to be unrealistic. You said it yourself, “His way works.” 
    Just so you know. Read the post called The prodigal daughter. That is my wife’s testimony. I know the road to forgiveness well. Is it difficult? absolutely. Unrealistic? seems that way at times. But if you want to feel free, you have to learn to forgive. 
    Thanks for your comments.

  3. […] Be careful not to extend a judgement and bitterness that you have never received from Father. He has never rubbed your sin in your face. He’s covered it with His own Son’s blood. He’s offered a way out and a way home. So, extend the same love you once received. Let the blood of Jesus pierce into the darkness of your anger and bitterness and forgive as you’ve been forgiven. […]


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