I was listening to Christian Music the other day on the radio, and I heard someone talking about forgiveness. The key to the message was we must forgive someone, not once, not twice, but 70 times 7 times. WOW. Matthew 18:21-22 says, Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Reflecting on this, I realized that God is constantly calling us to give forgiveness to others. It is not only a gift to others, but a gift to us. Because when we forgive, our God enables our hearts to become open to the mistakes of others. We feel peace and understanding. We finally can put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Unfortunately, because we are human, we also remember the past and must forgive all over again. This is where the seventy times seven comes into play.
I can remember several times in my life that forgiveness didn’t come so easily. People did hurtful things to me and I was pretty sure they meant to hurt me. During these times, I allowed bitterness to seep into my heart and soul. I found that nothing could get my mind from the animosity that I held in my heart. They are not moments I am proud of. Once I allowed God to melt away the hurt, I began to feel peace. It was a peace so wonderful because I had allowed my heart to be hardened for so long. You know what? The entire experience reminded me that I cannot control others and what they do, but I can control how I react to those people. I also can control how much or how little those individuals are involved in my life. That was the key. It was a back and forth game. I would slowly allow them back in my life, and they would hurt me again. I would allow gossip to upset me. I would allow others to talk about the situation, and my heart would harden once again. I found that I had to start the forgiveness process all over again. Seventy times seven, I would tell myself (over and over). I slowly learned to balance the amount of time that I spent surrounded by these hurtful individuals. It certainly made a difference in my life. Through my own mistakes and forgiveness, I found the key to keeping balanced. I had to limit my time around these people, stop others from gossiping in front of me (even if the gossip did support my side of things), and learn to walk away when others brought up the situation. Balance. God. Prayer. Forgiveness.
Does forgiveness mean there is a winner and a loser? Not necessarily, but it does mean that you have to allow yourself to be weak for a moment: weak to allow God to strengthen you, weak to allow goodness to seep back into your very being, weak to realize your mistakes. Winners and losers are really beside the point. Forgiveness is more about moving on with your life. Allowing God to walk with you daily will make forgiveness a little easier to swallow.
Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Jesus isn’t saying that forgiveness means giving in to everything and everyone. He is saying that you should confront the sin, and try to make it right. If that is not possible, then remember that what you do on earth you will be judged for in heaven. Forgive the other person, even if they will not let go of the situation. Take the high road. Move on with your life. Find much needed time with God in prayer. Forgive others as much as you need to.
To experience a relationship with God, you cannot harbor resentment in your heart. You cannot let bitterness win you over. Pray for God’s strength to forgive. Pray that God will allow you once again to be close to Him. Move forward in your faith life by learning to forgive.
Who do you need to forgive today? How can you truly give forgiveness to this person so that you feel God’s peace? You can only find God’s peace if you forgive with all your heart. Remember this may be a constant process, but I guarantee you, the peace will overtake your heart when you allow God to help you with forgiveness.