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 if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
- Matthew 6:14-15
“Is there a limit to loving your enemy? Someone once asked me, ‘Alex, surely there is a limit to forgiveness for those who continually hurt us? When do we draw the line?’ I sat there for a moment and thought about the place in the Bible where Peter asked Jesus a similar question. He asked Jesus how many times must he forgive someone. ‘Up to seven times?’ he asked. And Jesus told Peter that he needed to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21-22). Basically He was saying there is no limit to our need to forgive. Of course, I believe that you should never stay in any abusive situation, but I also know that the power to heal is often found in forgiving those who trespass against us. We need to put healthy boundaries in our lives, but we also must ask Jesus to help us forgive others, which will release their hold over our lives.
“Think of all the horrific things that happened to Jesus and imagine if He limited the number of times He forgave us. What if He limited the number of times He forgave you? What would that number be? I know I have exhausted my limit by now at the age of forty-five.
“I told this woman that we just need to keep on forgiving. We can’t reduce God’s love to how much we think someone deserves our forgiveness. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus even said if we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us.
“This command of Jesus was brought afresh into my life recently. I was convicted to the core when I was invited to speak to several women in a county jail. I was so pumped to share the love of Jesus with them over the course of three days. I prayed and inquired of the Lord what He wanted me to share with them so that they could encounter His love.
“During this time, I got a glimpse into who they were and was able to connect on a deep level, since I had the opportunity to really engage with women individually. On the second day, I felt Jesus show up in that jail. It was as if He had physically walked into the room. His presence was so strong that every hardened heart was softened. Every facade of hostility was broken down in a way that only Jesus can do. You could feel the weight of His glory lavishing over these women.
“Ask God if there is someone you need to forgive, and then ask Him to help you release that person. Ask Him to help you see them through God’s eyes and with God’s heart. Then ask the Holy Spirit what it is you specifically may need to do that moves in the opposite spirit toward him or her.”
- Alex Seeley, The Opposite Life
Again, Alex Seeley started down a path that I did not expect. Then again, why do we hold old grudges? Why do we seek revenge, or think about the possibility? Why do we fail to forgive?
What we must understand is that when someone repeatedly harms us, we still need to forgive. But in forgiving, it does not take the hurt away. It does not mean that the person harming us is not harming others that we love. We can seek distance to lessen the future pain. We can rub the wound. But pardon the mental picture, let’s not pull at the scab. Let it go.
In positive things, a common expression is to “let go, and let God.” Let God take over the situation. Let go of our fears and doubts. Sure, those things are positive, and we can see how God will handle it, but to let go of someone that you love dearly, but they continue to harm you at every turn? When we let go of them, while continuing to love them, God might just work some wonderful miracles in their lives that will bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And for a true believer, we can put up with a thousand warts, as long as they are on the path to salvation.
I can speak of the horrible things people have done to me, but I wish none of them eternal damnation.
I would love to have had justice here, there, or a number of other places, but to think of them suffering punishment is not a pretty picture. Could we just have a little mercy here?
I would love to have the money in the bank from the pay raises that I never got, but management was happy with my productivity without a pay raise, so why not? Do I wish a lightning bolt split their body in two? I guess since I just painted the picture, I may have thought about it, but I can let that go.
Now as for the dentist who ripped me off for a lot more than the services were worth… I will not mention the dental office and I hope they learn about Jesus, but I intend to never go there again.
These are the kinds of things that we can let go, and let God take control. We do not need to hold a grudge. We do not need to remain angry.
And in wanting our oppressors to come to Jesus, we are treating the situation with love, even though we know to that we could never be in the same room with them due to their seventy times seven incidents of harming us.
Lord, guide me. Help me find a way to show love to people who show hate to You and me, as if they enjoy it. Help me, as Alex Seeley says, to see them as humans going through hard times themselves. In the end, I want to see those who are family, and those I associate with as friends, and even my enemies come to know You, Lord. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.