“Then Peter came to Jesus and ask, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seventy times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Sin’s offense hurts. There is no doubt about it. Sin wounds indiscriminately. It is no respecter of persons. Sin builds walls. It ravishes relationships and it separates. Sin is a sorry excuse for wrong behavior. Just the sound of the word solicits negative emotion. Sin is deceptive, carnal and Christ-less. Sin is unfair, sad and sometimes sadistic.
Sin follows a process of desire, conception, birth, maturity and death. James describes its diabolical development. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). So sin is not to be taken lightly. Certainly its infliction of pain cannot be ignored for long. It can kill relationships.
Nonetheless, when you are sinned against, you are to forgive. When someone’s sin assaults your attitude, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin berates your work, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin violates your trust, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin steals your joy, you are to forgive them.
When someone’s sin crushes your dreams, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin steals from you, you are to forgive them. This level of forgiveness is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, but it is the way of Christ. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive. Unforgiveness is tortuous to the soul. It is unhealthy for the body and emotions. Unforgiveness fills prescriptions and leaves hollow lives in its wake.
It doesn’t matter who is the most right or the most wrong. Forgiveness cuts through the varying degrees of guilt and erases the entire debt. True forgiveness comes from the heart of the one offended. It is not a flippant acknowledgement, but a sincere removal of anything that is owed. When the offended one forgives, he or she wipes out the expectation for an apology, a pay back or change. It is forgiveness clear and simple. Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt, anger and shame. When you forgive you are free. You are free from the shackles of sin. When you forgive you trust God to judge others in His time. His judgment is just. God can be trusted with the consequences of sin’s offense.
Lastly, you continue to forgive others because your heavenly Father continues to forgive you. Without Christ’s forgiveness we are all men and women most miserable. Jesus does not deal in forgiveness quotas. The forgiveness of the Cross was swift, full, final and forever. Unlock your relational restraints with the key of forgiveness. Write a letter with tear soaked ink outlining your forgiveness. Call or e-mail someone today and let them know because you are forgiven, you forgive them. Set free others with forgiveness and you will be set free. There is freedom in Christ. Forgive fast—and forgive often.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a).
Prayer: Whom by God’s grace do I need to forgive? Have I accepted Christ’s forgiveness?
Related Readings: Genesis 50:17; Psalm 130:4; Luke 17:3; Ephesians 4:32