“Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” – Matthew 6:12 TEV
“Lord,” Peter once asked Jesus, “how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
Peter was being generous. Seven times was going above and beyond the call of duty. According to Jewish teaching, a man was to forgive someone four times. After that, forgiveness wasn’t required.
Jesus’ answer rocked Peter. “No. Seventy times seven!”
That’s a lot of offenses. If you want to take this literally, get a notebook and jot down when someone says or does something to hurt you. Make sure you number the offenses—because when you get to 491, you can justify your unforgiving heart.
Sound ludicrous? Think about it. Don’t we all keep score? Just get into an argument with someone, and out pours a litany of times that person offended you (or you offended them). True forgiveness doesn’t come easy.
I can think of two times in my professional life when I found forgiveness difficult: when I was cheated out of a job and when a father turned a parent-teacher conference into an attack on me.
The first offense took years for me to get past. But eventually I saw that harboring bitterness was destroying me. Although I haven’t forgotten, I don’t dwell on the injustice—that only serves to stir up anger and hurt. Besides, once God’s plan and purpose were revealed, I saw that it was much better than what I’d wanted at the time.
The second offense still smarts. I was explaining my position to the parent, a professing Christian prominent and active in the church, but my words were skillfully twisted and used against me. I can still feel the anger and frustration, the feelings of helplessness and futility.
One time I bruised my arm, but it didn’t turn black and blue right away. As the days went by, though, the bruise turned darker and uglier. The deeper the bruise, someone told me, the longer it takes to come out.
The same with bruises to our hearts (and, okay, our egos). Only time can ease the pain, mellow the sharpness, sweeten the bitterness.
But we have a choice: Dwell on the injustice and the hurt, or “think” and “thank” — think only good things about the one who offended us (Philippians 4:8) and then thank God for the person, for his positive qualities, for the good that God will work out of what we think of as bad (Romans 8:28).
For a long time afterward, I felt a twinge of pain and anger every time I saw this parent. But I refused to dwell on what happened. Instead I thought of the many ways God blessed this man and is using him in His kingdom, and then I thanked Him.
You know what, now I can’t even remember who he was.
That’s the best way to keep score.
Dear God, You have commanded us to forgive. It’s not an option. Help me to forgive others as You have forgiven me. Replace the anger and pain in my heart with Your love. And if I can’t love the person who hurt me, then I give You permission to love them through me. Amen.
Read and reflect on Matthew 18:21–35.
From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.