By far, one of the most difficult things God asks of us as Christians is to offer forgiveness to one another. When we’ve been wronged, especially if it’s continual, it’s hard not to just look out for ourselves or make our forgiveness meritorious and conditional. If you’re feeling the pain of having to offer forgiveness, know that you’re not alone. No one can go through life and be exempt from being wronged or personally offended, unless of course you have no relationships with others at all. Even Jesus’ disciples struggled with this concept and asked Jesus how many times they should forgive.
In Matthew 18, starting in verse 21, Peter came up to Jesus and asked how many times they should forgive. Peter wondered if it would be enough if he forgave seven times. Jesus responded by saying, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). What Jesus is saying is that there should not be a limit to the forgiveness we offer others.
Now I know what you’re thinking because I feel it too. How is that kind of forgiveness even possible? Shouldn’t the other person be held accountable for their actions? Shouldn’t they have to earn my trust back or at least pay some kind of price for their wrongful deeds? Jesus goes on in the rest of chapter 18 by teaching a parable of an unforgiving servant. When the servant who owed ten thousand talents begged for forgiveness, the Master offered it to him without strings attached. It would be very easy for us to see how this parallels the forgiveness offered to us by God. I could work daily for the rest of my life thanking God for the way he has forgiven me and it still would not be enough to earn it. That’s what true forgiveness is: an offer of grace that the offender cannot possibly pay back. We offer it not for what it gives us, but for what it gives God. Our offering of forgiveness goes up to him as a fragrant sacrifice where we deny ourselves and do what’s best for someone else (Ephesians 4:32-5:2). It is a true and beautiful act of love that shows gratitude to a merciful God.
So when it’s time to forgive, and rest assured that time will come eventually, do your best to offer it freely and from the heart. Remember the immeasurable forgiveness God has offered you and use the opportunity to pass that grace on to someone else. Put your trust in God that by offering this sacrifice, he will protect you from abuse and reward you for your faith in Him.