I am sure you have experienced many occasions when someone has hurt you. Depending on the relationship with that person the hurt was a deep wound or you brushed it off. The ones we can brush off are easier to forgive. Like a friend who is late for an appointment, or a child draws on your freshly painted wall. The ones that causes a deep wound are much more difficult to forgive. A spouse’s infidelity, a friend that broke a confidence, an unkind, critical remark. Those are much harder to forgive.
How about the person who wounds you time and again? They do the same thing repeatedly and leave you deeply hurt, questioning your own value. That is really hard to forgive. Some might say impossible. The easiest thing perhaps is just to cut them out of your life…but that isn’t forgiveness.
Peter asked Jesus such a question; “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times.” We are not told what prompted Peter to ask the question. Perhaps Peter had a person in mind. A family member that continued to put him down? A neighbor that kept taking advantage? A spouse that had an addiction? We aren’t told. But it was something Peter wanted to find out. He asked Jesus if forgiving 7 times was sufficient. The rabbis of the day taught that three times was sufficient. So Peter doubled that and threw in one more for good measure. Going above and beyond.
And the question implies that Peter has experienced repeated hurts – for the same thing. His brother put him down repeatedly. His neighbor didn’t respect boundaries repeatedly. His spouse was addicted and creating havoc in the home. Or perhaps Peter was thinking of himself. Maybe his impulsiveness got him not trouble more than once. (I know the Bible doesn’t tell us these things…I am using my sanctified imagination.)
I am sure each of us have asked the same question hoping that Jesus’ response might give us some wiggle room. We’d like to think there is a point at which the transgression is so grievous that we don’t have to forgive. But Jesus’ answer doesn’t give us any wiggle room. Not only no wiggle room but His answer goes beyond imagination. What He is saying is that we are to be God-like in our response to an offense.
We have often read and I have said myself that forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It frees us from the offense. It isn’t matter of letting someone off the hook – it is getting ourselves off the hook of transgression done to us!
But it is more than that. When we forgive we are reflecting God’s character – it is Hs nature to forgive. The act of forgiveness is more, so much more than our emotional well-being. Therefore when we forgive we enter into a very divine grace, a sacred behavior. I am beginning to see that the act of forgiveness is not about me at all. It is a form of true worship. It is me being willing to lay aside my desires for what I think is fair, picking up my cross and following after God.
And perhaps by His grace God will use me to bless the one that wronged me. Isn’t that what Jesus did on the Cross?
I am not saying that it is easy. It goes against my own nature. I strain against such. I argue. I fight for my rights. I nurse my hurts. I walk in self-pity and carry bitterness. But in the end I come down to this very simple truth. Jesus said to forgive over and over and over and over again – it reflects His nature. That’s what He wants from us. That is what He is doing in us.