Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
In a world with such heartache, it is unreasonable to even consider we can go through life unscathed. I'm sure those reading this haven't. People can be mean. Hurtful words pierce our heart like a dagger. Indifference replaces love. Friends betray confidence. Disagreements remain unsettled. Families forsake each other.
What are we to do when our hearts have been trampled on? When our inner core has been ripped apart? If not handled, anger and bitterness will start to creep their way into our heart. A delicate choice is available.
Each of us has a bridge in our lives. We all need to cross it at different times. The choice is ours. What awaits us on the other side of the bridge is life-changing. One side of the bridge offers guilt, hurt, anger, bitterness, and disappointment. The other side of the bridge offers healing, restoration, peace, grace and love.
What is this life-changing bridge? Forgiveness. The bridge of forgiveness leads to healing and restoration. Forgiveness is releasing control and the desire to get even or settle the score. To forgive is to pardon someone of an offense.
There are two positions to forgiveness: giving and receiving.
To give forgiveness means we extend it to those who have hurt us. It doesn't make the wrong right or get the other person off the hook. Forgiving another person frees us from being held captive to bitterness and anger.
To receive forgiveness is to accept the pardon of one whom we have hurt. When we have wronged another it is only necessary to seek forgiveness in hope of bringing healing to the relationship.
Several years ago I was challenged in my faith regarding forgiveness. Having experienced a wound so deep in my life I was plagued as a young adult woman with bitterness and resentment. I carried these burdens for years not knowing how to unload them. Harboring anger toward offenses like this are completely justified, right? Because the offense was wrong, you know, dead wrong.
My life crumbled. Emotionally and spiritually I was crippled. I knew I needed help. The guidance of another and the power of God enabled me to forgive the offender. Being able to truly forgive released the captivity I was in. Forgiveness didn't make the wrong right, but it did make my heart right.
The passage referenced above found in Matthew 18:21-35 is the parable of the unmerciful servant. He was forgiven a large debt by his master, yet would not forgive even a small debt of one of his servants. In this parable Jesus is showing us a picture of God's forgiveness. We owe a debt we could never repay. God in his gracious love chose to forgive our debt through His son. This forgiveness is offered to everyone. The choice is ours to accept it.
The example of Jesus offers us hope. Jesus was innocent yet he was mocked, ridiculed, spat on, beaten, tortured, and nailed to a cross. He was killed so we might receive and experience the greatest forgiveness of all. The seed of forgiveness is love. Love covers over a multitude of wrongs. When we acknowledge the forgiveness we have received from the Lord it is easier to extend it others, even the really big offenses.
Forgiveness is not easy, but it is necessary for maintaining healthy relationships with others and with God. There is transforming power when we are forgiven by another and when we extend it to others. Restoration replaces rivalry. Peace replaces pain. Healing replaces hurt. Grace replaces grudge. The bridge to healing and restoration is forgiveness. Will you cross the bridge?
Is there someone I need to extend forgiveness to? Am I willing to recognize the gracious and abundant forgiveness I have received from the Lord? His forgiveness of my sin cost Him His life. Ask the Lord for the strength to cross the bridge.
How have I allowed not forgiving someone to create distance in our relationship? How can I move forward in the process of healing and restoration? What step will I take this week?
Heart Changing Word:
Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Luke 6:37b "Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Colossians 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Copyright 2010 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.