Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
– Matthew 18:21-22
Forgiveness, I find, is one of the hardest emotions to muster up in the moments I need it the most. Isn’t it true, those who need our greatest forgiveness are the ones who have hurt us the deepest?
Are you like me… when someone hurts your feelings, your tongue gets tied, your heart twists until it hurts, and your thoughts are so tangled you’re stuck in time? My first response tends to be paralysis when I’m hurt. It’s one of the only times in my life that I find myself speechless.
How do you respond when she tells lies about you, or he ignores your pleas for help, or they plan to leave you out on purpose? Hurt. We all walk through this life being hurt far too many times to count. I think that’s why when Jesus was asked how many times should we forgive someone, He gave a number we’d lose track of, too many times to count.
Jesus was familiar with the psalmist’s words,
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD who could stand? But with You, there is forgiveness. (Psalm 130:3-4)
Think for a split moment of how many times God has forgiven you for big and small mistakes you’ve made. Too many times to count, right? That’s why when Peter asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive a brother or sister, Jesus told him a story to make it crystal clear.
Jesus told Peter about a King who wanted to settle his financial accounts. The King summoned a man who owed him a huge sum of money, worth millions of dollars today. He told the man to repay the debt or he and his family would be sold into slavery. The man fell to his knees and begged for the King’s mercy. The King took pity on the man, cancelled all his debt, and set him free.
Right after this, the forgiven man found another man who owed him just a few dollars. He demanded repayment. When he was asked to show mercy and forgive this small debt, he refused and had his debtor thrown into jail. When the King heard what had happened he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33)
Like the originally debtor, our sins are too many to count, millions of times we’ve messed up and fallen short, yet our heavenly Father still forgives us. As we’ve been forgiven, we too need forgiveness to override our hurt.
But isn’t that easier said than done? What if the next time you’re wronged or hurt you…?
Remember all the times God had forgiven you.
Remain calm and look at things from the other person’s point of view.
Request God’s help to forgive and set you both free.
Reach out to God and pray for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness is hard but the drawbacks of not forgiving are far worse. Like the story Jesus told, un- forgiveness makes us slaves to bitterness, revenge, or anger. And un-forgiveness also imprisons our emotions when God, our King of Kings, wants to set us free.
Who do you need to forgive today for the seventy-seventh time (but who’s counting)?
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