Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
- Matthew 18:21-35
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
- Psalm 103:11-12
“If we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one’s husband or wife; or parents or children…for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment.”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Jesus tied forgiving others with God forgiving us in the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, in Matthew 6, after reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus expands on what He meant regarding forgiveness. The two, forgiving and forgiveness, go together.
As far as anything that I have written or said that has offended someone, I apologize for the offense, and I may have not meant how you read what I wrote. My wife occasionally says to me, “You are not as funny as you think you are.” As Beth Moore tweeted once that she didn’t agree with everything that woman (meaning herself) had written, or words to that effect. Sometimes we grow from that point until now. Sometimes we write truth that hurts, and even though it may have hurt at the moment, consider how God can make that revelation within you blossom into something of great beauty. But as for the joking, I agree with my wife that I sometimes go too far.
As for Twitter, I do not trust myself. I have a hard enough time writing an essay and reviewing it a half dozen times, and still making mistakes. I would offend a lot of people, and maybe myself, by writing the first two sentences that popped into my head and then hitting send. My hat is off to Beth Moore, Tim Keller, and the others that often tweet.
But that being said, I have heard people that were really close to me say some dumb things over the years with regard to forgiveness, and I have met some really remarkable people when it comes to forgiveness.
First, have you ever heard someone say that they forgive, but they will never forget? I heard this from someone who had a fantastic memory when it came to real or imagined hurts in their life. And when they got old enough to think that others might excuse them as being senile, they confronted people over the hurts from injuries that were 60-70 years old. That does not sound much like forgiveness to me, but God does not see our sin once we are His. To Him, we are washed as white as snow.
Can we live like that ourselves?
I knew someone who could swim in a cesspool of the filthiest things on earth and not notice. What I mean by that is that this person loved so unconditionally that he did not see the sin in those around him, even when the other person’s sin created great hardship for him. He would take the hardship upon himself, allowing the other to continue without comment. I am not saying that we should do that. Rebuke is something that we should do in a loving manner. I am saying that this person’s ability to do this was remarkable, and genuine.
I once suggested that if he went out to dinner with Jack the Ripper, Attila the Hun, and Hitler, he would return from dinner and talk for the rest of the evening about their good qualities. His response was something along the lines of, “Hitler? Really? Come on now!” I smiled, but I was thinking, ‘Hmmmm. He does draw the line. He just does not let anyone know where the line is.”
As far as the others whom I have known, they fall somewhere in the middle between these extremes. Forgiveness is not easy. It ranks on the hardness scale above loving one’s enemies, and that requires Herculean strength. Why? Because some of the hardest to forgive, and forget, are not one’s enemies, but the one’s like Peter mentioned in the Scripture above, family. Okay, that could be blood relations or a church family, but with a church family, you can change churches if a hurt runs too deep, especially when the other party is not repentant.
You did notice that Jesus said nothing of repentance. Repentance is essential for us to have a relationship with Jesus, but repentance is not a prerequisite for us to forgive others. The lack of repentance may lead to us moving on – hard to do when the other person is family.
I have had people who have abused me in one way or another. I have had people do their best to ruin my professional career. But looking back, I feel no enmity toward them, and even the mechanism of the abuse (the details) fades over time. For some, I could not even name them. I do not carry the baggage, except in a fairly good memory bank, but if I ever get senile, I would love for that to be the first set of memories to disappear. And regardless of what memories we keep when we go to Heaven, I am sure our hurts and those who hurt us will indeed be forgotten.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.