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Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22 (NLT)

 At first glance one might think Peter was being a bit harsh when he asked Jesus how often we should forgive someone who has done us wrong. After all, isn’t forgiving someone something we just do, or are supposed to do. In reality though, Peter was really being quite generous. In his day the Pharisaical law stated (traditionally) that after a person sins against you three times you were no longer obligated to grant that person forgiveness. Peter’s offer to forgive seven times went way above and beyond the call of duty.

Jesus, of course, blew all that away by saying that true forgiveness should be granted 7 times 70. This isn’t a math question. Jesus intent wasn’t to come up with the number of 490 times before we could withhold forgiveness. What he was simply saying to those gathered around him was that there is NO magic number of times. Forgiveness was to be granted continually, as many times as is necessary.

In theory, that sounds good. Reality is harsh. Much as we’d like to be able to forgive, it’s just not always that easy to do. Two reasons why we may find it hard to forgive are that we think forgiveness is:

  • A sign of weakness-“No one likes being a doormat! If I forgive you I’m just rolling over and playing dead. I have rights. I’m a real person. I deserve some dignity and you took that away from me!” In reality though, forgiveness shows real strength of character. Those who are generally able to forgive are those who have a strong sense of their own value.
  • Permission for continued abuse-When someone hurts us, whether it is physically or emotionally, forgiving them does not alleviate the seriousness of their actions. To forgive someone does not mean you trust them immediately, or ever! While trust may be able to be established after a time, abuse is never okay.

As difficult as forgiveness can be, it is also very beneficial.

  • Forgiveness frees you from bitterness, anger and depression. 
  • Forgiveness allows you to move on with life.
  • Forgiveness allows God to work more freely in your own life.
  • People who are forgiving are generally happier people and people that others want to be around.

In reality, when I forgive you it is more for my benefit than yours. When I forgive you it doesn’t mean that I’m okay with what you did to me. Forgiveness means I’m giving myself permission to be released from the hurt. It means I’m okay with me. Forgiveness is freedom to live above the pain caused by the injustice.

Forgiveness isn’t easy to do.  It’s a supernaturally empowered act that tells the world that you trust God to do the healing. It’s a two step process. First, I must make a decision verbally, to myself (not necessarily the one who wronged me) that I will forgive the wrong done me. Secondly, I begin a process of healing in which I daily remind myself that who I am in Christ and that God, the creator-God of the universe loves me. Healing can take a long time, but true healing will not happen until I release the person who wronged me. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

PRAYER: Holy Father. Right now you know there are people in my life I’m having a hard time forgiving. They have hurt me over and over again and I don’t want to be hurt. Still, You tell us to forgive just as you have forgiven us. That’s a tall order. Please help me to believe enough in You and in myself to release the person(s) that have hurt me. Amen.

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