“…Not seven times…seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:22
How many times have you ever heard someone say—or perhaps you yourself have said—“I can never forgive them?” My heart breaks when I hear those words. Why? Because that person has put themselves in a prison that will only reap bitterness until he/she forgives. It will be a sad and dark life in which they see no beauty, no light for the future.
Several years ago an Amish community suffered a terrible loss. Someone came into one of their school houses and killed eleven of the students, after which, he killed himself. It must have been a horrific scene, as you can imagine. And, the children who witnessed all of this must have been traumatized! Yet, the Amish people forgave this man and even, helped his wife and family through their grief. A testament to the way of life the Lord Jesus has laid out for those who follow him.
So when you hear someone say, “I cannot forgive,” know the first thing that person needs to know is that God loves them. They need the Lord! They are lost in their grief. It is not that this horrible thing that has happened should go without punishment. It is about forgiveness that will release them from the burden they carry that should not be theirs to carry in the first place—it is the Lord’s burden and He will be the one to judge and punish. Another very important thing, when you forgive you are not condoning the person’s evil deed—you are releasing the burden you have been carrying and putting it where it needs to be—in God’s hands.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a story of the “Unforgiving Servant.” A king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One was brought to him who owed an enormous amount which he could not pay. The king ordered the servant, his wife and children, to be sold. But, the servant pleaded with the king to have patience with him and he would repay what he owed. So the king forgave him. But, this same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him money and demanded that he pay him what he owed!
When the king heard what happened, he sent for the unforgiving servant and sked him, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33) The king sent, the unforgiving servant away to be tortured until he paid.
The scripture goes on to teach us that if this is what our Heavenly Father will do to us if we do not forgive as He has forgiven us. Our Father has forgiven us much—seventy-times-seven, we are called to repent of our sins and forgive those who sin against us. Only when you understand this can you live a blessed life. For you see, you cannot give away something you do not have.
Dear Lord, help me forgive as You have forgiven me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
God is rich in mercy and grace, but He is also holy and just, so those who refuse to forgive should not imagine that God would welcome their unforgiving hearts into His kingdom. (The Jeremiah Study Bible, pg. 115, note Matthew 18:35)
Matthew 18:21-22 Luke 17:4 Colossians 3:13 Psalm 103:10, 13