Matthew 18:35 – “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” NASB
The question of how much and how often do we forgive is an issue that has troubled believers for a very long time. It is argued and debated, frequently out of a self-justifying mindset. The argument, “But you don’t know what they did? You don’t know how much the did? You don’t know how often they did what they did?” You are right, I don’t but I do know what God says about it and that is far more important than what you or I experienced in the situation.
This truth is illustrated powerfully in Peter’s question in Matthew 18:21 – “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter, like most people, was looking for a numeric specific or a tally sheet. We often argue that we don’t keep them, but my experience is WE DO! Jesus’ response was not a numeric specific in saying “70 times 7” but a Hebraism that meant ENDLESSLY or WITHOUT NUMBER! We never hide, justify, or excuse their sin, that is not forgiveness it is enabling and pacifying. We love them and endeavor to lead them to the Light of God’s Love.
Let me offer this word of caution for anyone having difficulty forgiving others and I believe it will be beneficial. I suggest that you purpose in your heart and commit yourself to pray for them daily. I do not believe that we can honestly and from the heart pray for people and continue to hate them. It may take weeks, months, or even years but there will be a change in our attitude toward them and our desire for them. I did not say, pray for God to GET THEM but pray FOR THEM!
We see the immense peril of unforgiveness illustrated in Proverbs 17:13 – “He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart his house.” Who wants that? I would hope, nobody. It is a good thing to forgive and a bad thing to refuse to forgive. It is detrimental to everyone to withhold forgiveness.
There is a distinct difference between Forgiveness and Judgment. For example, if somebody lies to me ten times, I may forgive that person each time, but in my heart, I make a judgment. In my heart, I see that person as a liar. I may have taken care of the individual incidents, but I have rendered a judgment that he/she is a liar and therefore, I see them as a Liar. I have forgiven the sin, but I am still judging the person! God is the God of Restoration and bringing Wholeness.
Let me suggest that you do not say, “I’m sorry” when you ask for forgiveness. What? That doesn’t sound right, so what could I mean. I suggest that you say, “Will you forgive me?” At that point the person that I am confessing to and asking forgiveness of can truly release what is in their hearts and both free me and themselves, at the same time.
I also suggest that you don’t rush out to everyone you have ever harbored an ill-thought toward or held a grudge against and tell them everything that you thought or felt. Why? You should forgive them BEFORE you tell them all the nasty details. I had a person come to me wanting to tell me all they had ever felt negatively about me. I said, “I forgive you and I do not need to know or want to know the details of how you felt. I ask you to forgive me for what I did to cause you to feel that way.” There may need to be some detailing so that the air can be cleared, and true forgiveness can ensue, but often it is not only unnecessary but unwise.
Some people want you to know, not because they are repentant but because they believe that through their revealing their pain to you and your ugliness, they can change you. When I perceive that is the intent, I frequently stop them and say, “I forgive you and ask that you forgive me.” There will be some things that need to be confessed in detail to a counselor in a time of ministry in order to become free, but it should never be a forum to dump or trash another person.
Forgiveness is a very important and misunderstood key to freedom as believers. We need to identify any and all areas of unforgiveness in our lives. We need to repent of those areas and ask forgiveness both of God and the one offended and the offender. We need to release all bitterness and judgments. We need to receive forgiveness. I hope these sessions have been beneficial and resonated with you in your pursuit of wholeness and freedom in Jesus.
God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in His Love!