Wednesday, APRIL 19
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 18
I would like to skip down to verse 21. Peter asks a very important question about a topic that causes a lot of us a lot of grief. He wanted to know about forgiveness and, in particular, how many times he needed to forgive.
Before Jesus could actually answer the question, Peter offered his own answer. He asked Jesus if forgiving someone seven times was sufficient. It is important that you know that Peter undoubtedly thought he was being more than generous with seven forgivenesses (I just totally made up that word.) The reason he would have thought that is that the rabbis during that time taught that forgiving someone three times was sufficient. The other reason Peter might have thought he was being crazy generous with seven forgivenesses is that a lot of us struggle getting past one forgiveness. I know a few folks who won’t even do one forgiveness.
I suspect when Peter offered seven forgivenesses, he thought that he was putting himself in a place to receive some glowing praise from Jesus. Instead Jesus said we are to forgive seventy-seven times. That would be 490 forgivenessess and that is a lot. You know that had to have hurt Peter’s feelings just a little.
By the way, let’s not take Jesus too literal here. I don’t think He was suggesting we keep a running tally of how many forgivnessess we had offered. Can you imagine saying to someone, “Listen, according to my painstakingly kept records, I have forgiven you 489 times. You got one left. Use it wisely.” Besides, 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. This can’t be taken literally.
I am quite convinced that Jesus’ point was our forgiveness should know no limits. The reason I am convinced of that is forgiveness is absolutely vital to our mental, emotional, and relational health. In other words, forgiveness may do more for us than it does for the person who offended us. Forgiveness may release the other person for the wrong committed. But, more importantly, forgiveness releases us from the grudge and bitterness that always accompany unforgiveness.
So, why don’t we forgive more often and more freely? It may very well be that we don’t really understand forgiveness. For example, forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness. I know. We have all been told we should forgive and forget. While there are some things we forget almost immediately, there are other things we may never forget. Forgiveness means we take away the weight of the offense not necessarily the memory of it.
Another example is sometimes we think if we forgive someone we have given them permission to hurt us again, sometimes in the very same way. Not true. Forgiveness does not insist on gullibility. We can forgive, remove the weight of the offense, and still protect ourselves from being hurt in the same by the same person again. In fact, we should protect ourselves.
Because I am suddenly out of space, let me leave you with one more thought about this. Did you notice that Peter asked only about how to deal with people who had hurt/offended him? But he didn’t seem to ask about what he should do when he hurt/offended someone else. Sometimes our pride keeps us from seeking forgiveness almost as much as it does offering forgiveness.