Why forgive others? For how many times? How about when it's hard to forgive? One answer settles all this!
“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:4). As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Colossians 3:13).
In the book of Matthew 18:23-35, there is a story of a man who could not forgive his neighbor after he himself had been forgiven. According to that story, he had been forgiven by a man he owed about 10 million dollars (money) and he failed to forgive someone who owed him just 10 dollars. This was so absurd and Jesus ended the story with a dangerous comment; “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
The lesson of forgiveness has been around since the creation. Every church leader, every preacher, every counselor has ever talked about it, and you also have ever heard of it or even practised it. And the question remains; how many times have we really considered why we are asked to forgive our neighbors?
Forgive, forgive, and forgive, but for how long?
The story we just shared came after someone curious as we are now asked the important question; “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Just like me, you must have tried to forgive your friends, brothers, and sisters, but it is becoming too much. The other day I was thinking about it again; these brothers of mine do not change. You put up with one mistake, the other day they are in another mess. You forego the bad words they speak about you, they again and again do the same. You try to pretend you are not hurt by your friends, but you see them continuously hurting you, and the right question pops up; how long can I be patient with them? How many times must I forgive them?
You are not alone, St. Peter (the rock) had the same trouble. And even me, I still struggle with the same question. But surely today, the answer is in front of us. We need to know how many times we can hold on before we pay them back, and most importantly why we should hold on for that long.
The answers to the quest
Jesus answered Peter using the above parable, but He had earlier answered his first question as well. The answer was; “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times". This was like saying we need to forgive our friends, not only seven times but seventy times seven (70*7). Oh my God! Let us do some calculations. This equals to 490 times. This simply implies there is no end because I do not think we shall ever reach that figure if we counted. Anyway, whatever it means, it is too much that we must ask; why bother? Why such struggle? Why not once, twice, thrice, and give up? Peter must have asked the same (it was either not recorded or he asked with his unconvinced face and not words).
The answer to the second quest is so moving. Jesus says we need to forgive others because we also need the forgiveness. If we were perfect ourselves; if we never wrong anyone; if we never wrong God or even ourselves, then we would have all the reasons not to forgive. And I think we would not be held responsible for disobeying such a call. But the trouble is; we are ourselves sinners who wrong God and others and not only once but all the time.
This is the only motivation for us; when we forgive others, we are also forgiven. And by the way, it does not start with us; it started with Jesus Christ when He forgave us and died for us on the cross. Our forgiving others is simply an extension of that grace that we received and continue to receive everyday.
God is not asking us to forgive our friends for their sake, no, He is advising us to do it for our own sake. The Bible says that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He forgave us all our wrongs and graciously welcomed us into His family. Should not we do the same for our brothers and sisters? And according to 1 John 1:8-10, we wrong God and people everyday and time and thus need God's mercy and forgiveness every time for the rest of our lives. Should not we do the same for our brothers and sisters?
The above is a self motivating principle. We forgive others so we receive forgiveness. It is the principal that saved the woman caught in the adultery. It is the principle that asks us not to condemn others. It is the principle that saves us too. Yes, we are sinners and so others are, and the little we can do for ourselves is to look at others with pity and extend the favors and grace we receive everyday to others. For neither me nor you deserves anything good.
What do we do when it is hard?
"It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13, NKJV). As one scholar puts it, our power to forgive is rooted in the forgiveness we receive. There is nothing else that can motivate us to overcome the difficulties and challenges of forgiving but our only reception of forgiveness.
As the above verse states, it is only God's love and grace that can help us forgive others. Sometimes it is so hard to forget such bad people and forgive them for all their wrongs, but when we think of how bad we were or are, we find courage to move on and forgive others. Remember, sometimes it may not necessarily bring change in our physical relations and dealings, but when forgiving is done, it certainly brings change and transformation within our hearts.
You can understand understand what forgiving and forgetting really means by reading our earlier writings.
So when it is hard for you, just simply ask the question; what if it was hard for those I wrong or even God? Ask God to give you courage and strength to forgive those who hurt you. Jesus also did, but it was not easy too. We just have to do it for ourselves.
God bless you
The Complete You Ministry, www.nemvicx.blogspot.com