Forgiveness isn’t easy, especially when it seems you are continually forgiving the same person over and over again. If you’re like me, you may forgive, sometimes grudgingly, but you wonder, When will that person ever change? Shouldn’t there be a limit to my forgiveness?
And the act of forgiving can be even more difficult when you learn the extent to which someone you know harmed your loved one and masqueraded the harm done under supposed Christian loving care and concern. Recently, a wound inflicted on my loved one resurfaced. As I learned of the additional harm that that person had caused, my blood boiled. I felt so angry and helpless and full of regrets for what I could have done, if only I had known. But mostly, I wanted to cause that person harm—maybe not physically (although, if I’m honest, the thought did cross my mind) but definitely emotionally. I wanted that person to suffer for what he/she had done.
I spouted and cried and finally prayed about it. I’m working on forgiving that person once again, but it would be so easy to hold on and nurse the anger and hurt—and to retaliate. But I know that God calls me to forgive. And saying “no” to revenge is the first step. (I’m so glad that God keeps me from acting on such thoughts!)
I think of Peter’s inquiry of Jesus: “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21 ESV). How did Jesus respond? “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (v.22). Jesus did not make that statement lightly or casually. He knew what was soon to come.
What lay before Jesus was betrayal and desertion by His closest friends, humiliation, a brutal beating, mock trials, excruciating pain, and a horrible death. He had much inflicted upon His person that He needed to forgive. Yet He did so willingly! And He not only forgave those sins, but He suffered and died to pay the price for all the sins in the past, present, and future of all who believed in Him, so that they “should not perish but have eternal life.” Why? “Because God so loved the world” (John 3:16). God loves us that much!
In turn, He calls us to forgive others the way He has forgiven us. No, it’s not easy. It’s impossible! But it’s the renovation of our hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit that enables us to begin growing a heart of forgiveness. When I think of the many sins that I’ve committed—and how much God has personally forgiven me—forgiving others gets a little easier.