Then Peter came up and said to him,
“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.“
Have you ever wanted to ask this question before? I know I have, and I am sure if you are honest with yourself for a moment that you have too.
We are taught from the time we are very small children that we are to ask for forgiveness and we are to forgive others.
Have you ever seen two children playing together, and one hit the other? What normally happens next? Normally there is some sort of punishment for the one that hit, followed by a lesson on asking forgiveness. Then there is a lesson for the other child on forgiving the wrong that has been done toward them. Children are normally very quick to forgive and move on. I believe this is why God has said in His Word:
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child,
the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
What about the deeper hurts? Sometimes the wrongs that are committed against us are not so easy to forgive.
If someone steps on my toe as they pass, and they say, “Oh! I am sorry,” it is pretty easy to forgive and move on. But, what if someone I know and trust steps on my heart and never looks back to even acknowledge that wrong? That is a lot harder to let go of and move past.
There are a few things about forgiveness that I have learned over the years that i would like to share with you:
1. Forgiveness is not always easy.
There are some hurts that go so deep, almost to the core of us. These hurts seem to be the hardest to let go of, but with God’s grace we can accomplish it.
2. Forgiveness is not always instantaneous.
I may be able to say with my mouth, “I forgive you,” but often times in my hearts it does not happen so quickly. I have found in my life that sometimes forgiveness takes time; it is a process.
3. Forgiveness is a journey
Often times we must continue to forgive past wrongs. Each time they come to our minds we must give them back to God. There will be times when forgiveness will come in stages. This is why I say it is a journey. Even if you do truly forgive that hurt in your heart in an instant, there may still come a day when you realize that there is more to it and you will have to find the grace to forgive each stage.
Satan gets great pleasure from bringing up past hurts to hinder us. If he can not stop us from forgiving as we should, he will keep bringing the past back up for us to trip over. That is when we must take that hurt back to God, leave it at his feet, and keep on living for Him.
4. Do we really “Forgive and forget?”
Let me stop right here and tell you that I do not completely agree with this saying. Allow me to explain:
I do believe that we are to forgive when we are wronged, and yes, to an extent we are to forget that wrong. I do not believe, however, that we are to forget so much as to ignore the lesson that we learned from the situation.
I believe that God allows us to endure trials for a reason, and often times we walk away with scars. I believe that those scars are a reminder to us, a learning tool.
I have a scar on one of my knees from years ago. While on deputation, my family and I visited a church camp. One afternoon my Mom and I were walking to the tabernacle for service. I had forgotten something in my room, and as I ran back to get it my Mom called my name. It had been raining that day, and when I turned to see what she needed I slipped and cut my knee on a rock. I had to go to the doctor and have stitches placed in the cut so it would heal properly. To this day, I can still picture exactly what happened and I learned from it. While the physical pain has long been gone, every time I see that scar I remember what happened that day.
I do encourage you to forgive and move on, however, I do not ask that you “Forgive and forget.” To do so opens you up to the chances of having to endure the same situation again.
5. Forgiveness is good for the soul.
I believe that forgiveness is more for the one who forgives than for the one who is being forgiven. If someone has mistreated you, they may go on as if nothing has happened while you are left damaged and broken. The longer that hurt goes without being forgiven the more likely you are to become bitter. When this happens, you have given power to the one that has hurt you and you are allowing them to control your life. Many times we do not realize that this is even happening, and it can go on for years if we do not recognize it and do something about it.
Forgiveness brings freedom. When I forgive those who have hurt me, I am opening my heart to God and allowing Him to teach me things and to grow me.
If I choose not to forgive someone, I am imprisoning myself to a life of grief and bitterness.
The Bible teaches us that we are to forgive as our Father in Heaven has forgiven us, and that if we want God to forgive us, we must forgive those that wrong us.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
I want to encourage you today. If you have things in your life that you have been holding on to, give them to God. Allow Him to begin a work of forgiveness in you today. If there are past hurts that you thought you had forgiven and moved past, but you find yourself tripping over them, give them back to God. He wants to heal your heart today. Then, I want to encourage you to do one more thing. Pray for the ones that have wronged you. Even if they do not realize that you are hurting, pray for them just the same. I promise you that it will be medicine for the soul. It will also keep you from becoming bitter, for you can not hate someone and pray for them too.
Trust me when I say that I know about forgiving wrongs. I would not tell you these things if I had not first had to do them myself. And yes, in case you are wondering, I too still have to forgive past wrongs. Satan brings things back to my mind that were done years ago. I have to stop right then, pray, and ask God to help me continue to forgive. I then pray for the one that has wronged me. I pray that God will minister to them, convict their heart, and help them to see that they need Him.
I understand that forgiveness is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is medicine for your soul, and you will never find anything that will bring you the freedom and peace of mind that forgiveness and the grace of God will bring.
God bless you today.