How many times should you forgive someone who has wronged you? Once? Twice? Up to seven times?
That is the question Peter posed to Jesus. Jesus answered “Not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18-22.
It gets worse. When Jesus said seventy-seven times, what he was saying was seventy multiplied by seven times. So how many times should you forgive someone who wronged you? A lot!
Forgiveness is difficult because it requires us to check our ego; our pride.
But God’s insistence on forgiveness is for our own sake, not for the sake of the offender. Remember, forgiveness is not the same as forgetting, excusing or smoothing things over. Forgiveness is about releasing the grudge and anger you have towards someone else. It’s about modeling the same kind of forgiveness towards your offender that you expect to receive from our Heavenly Father. In fact, God will only forgive us as much as we forgive those who hurt us. “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.
When I was growing up, I was taught to tell people I’m sorry if I did something to offend or hurt someone. According to God, that’s not forgiveness. Jesus tells us to go to the offended party and tell them I am truly sorry I hurt you … I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. If they say “I forgive you” then closure to this issue has been achieved by both.
BUT there is one more step, which is to get on our knees and ask God to forgive us for our sin against Him (1 John 1:9) which He will do. But I thought He had forgiven us for all our sins, past, present and future? Yes, that’s true but taking this step helps us keep our relationship with Him intimate and healthy. “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:10
Forgiveness doesn’t settle all the issues or the questions of blame and fairness, but it sets us up to release the right to resentment, anger, and bitterness towards someone, and it places justice into God’s hands and peace in our heart.