“How often should I forgive someone?” Matthew 18:21 NLT
“In the human heart there is an inherent need for rules to be fair.”
My thoughts today are about “second chances.”
Forgiveness can be challenging eventually, even if not initially. God seems to have put a sense of fairness and justice inside of every person. The youngest of children can be heard to respond with these words of complaint, “That’s not fair!” Ever been waiting in a line and someone cuts into the line, seeming to assume their time is more important or their need more urgent than others patiently waiting? And I’m sure you are cool with someone hurrying into that just vacated parking place for which you had been waiting.
We expect people to do what’s right, to wait their turn, and to play fair. And when that sense of fairness comes up against injustice, we want justice restored. In one’s heart there is an inherent need for rules to be fair, and for them to be followed equally. Granted, people are prone to permit themselves a more tolerant standard than they may allow others.
Most people will be understanding and forgiving a first time, even a few times. But how do you feel when the same person continues to assume that same grace, even seeming to take your understanding for granted multiple times? Peter faced that all too common question; “Lord, how often should I forgive some who sins against me? Seven times?” He must have felt very expansive in his answer, until he heard Jesus’ answer; “’No!’ Jesus replied, ‘seventy times seven!’” Matthew 18:21-22 NLT. Read Jesus’ explanation why. See Matthew 18:23-35 NIV. Any idea how many times you have needed forgiveness?
Was Jesus giving a number at which unforgiveness becomes acceptable? I think He gave a number that you would soon lose count until any limit would become irrelevant. The more sincerely forgiveness is practiced, the easier it becomes. But isn’t that the way of the Kingdom of God? God always stretches you beyond what you think you should or could do, so that you will rely on Him for all you need.
Here are three simple truths that can help you forgive when it’s otherwise difficult. (1) Remember how much and how often you have been forgiven. Read Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV. (2) Remember; forgiveness is not required of you, if and when you no longer expect or will need forgiveness. Read Mark 11:25-26 NKJV. (3) Remember; your unforgiveness wrongly suggests that God will do the same. Read 1 John 1:7-10 NIV.
There is a passage of Scripture that I do not presume to fully understand, but neither do I dare ignore. “Then Jesus . . said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven.’” Read John 20:21-23 NIV. What you and I do may have eternal consequence in another’s life. That is sobering to me. You and I are to be “ambassadors for Christ.” Represent Him well. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV. He is the God of second chances, as many times as needed. See Jeremiah 18:1-4 NKJV. For that, I am very thankful.
My prayer for you today is that you rejoice in forgiveness and give it freely to others.