|Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matt. 18:21)
|It would be interesting to know what had taken place to prompt Peter to ask this question. Had something happened that sorely tried Peter’s patience? Was he venting that frustration to his Rabbi? We’ll never know.
What we do know, however, is that Jesus tells him that there is no limit to the number of times that forgiveness should be offered. Probably not what Peter wanted to hear.
Buried just underneath the surface of this conversation is the key question that drives it – what is forgiveness, what does it mean to forgive (or be forgiven)? What is it about this act of forgiveness that dictates that it be limitless?
To forgive is to dismiss an offense as if it never happened. It implies that the offense will never be brought up again. It doesn’t mean that we tolerate the offense. Even though we forgive, the sin behind the offense must still be addressed.
We often wrestle with forgiveness because we want our “pound of flesh” before we are willing to forgive. That is not the model that God has given us. If God demanded His “pound of flesh” before He forgave us, how could we know when He had satisfied Himself and we are forgiven?
And what if God said that each person only has so many times that he, or she, can be forgiven before He just gives up on us and permanently separates Himself from us? Again, we could never know when we are forgiven.
So, the next time that you are in the position to forgive or not, ask yourself this question, “does what I want in this situation match what God wants for me, for the one who has offended me?”
|Heavenly Father, so often I am in the situation where I’ve been hurt by the actions of another. Help me to see the path of forgiveness and choose it over that of revenge. Guide me by the Holy Spirit to forgive when it seems as if that is the last thing that should be done. Help me to heal from the offense committed against me so that I will remain on the path of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.