From Our Hearts to Yours
One day Peter asked Jesus a question that had probably been forming in his mind for some time. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Peter was being generous when he suggested forgiving someone seven times, for the traditional rabbinic teaching was that an offended person needed to forgive a brother only three times.
However, Jesus’ reply communicated that we need to exercise forgiveness to a much greater extent. “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (verse 22). Jesus was teaching that forgiveness has no limits. We’re to forgive no matter what the number of sins committed! Jesus set no limits on our forgiving an individual who has committed limitless offenses against us.
Then Jesus, the Master Teacher as well as the Master Forgiver, told a parable that illustrated the concept of unlimited forgiveness (verses 23-35). He told of a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed an enormous amount — the equivalent of about a million dollars in today’s economy. Well, of course the servant couldn’t pay. So, according to the custom of the day, the king ordered the servant and his family to be sold as slaves to recoup part of his debt. But when the servant pleaded with his master, begging for time to repay his debt, the master took pity on the servant, canceled the debt, and set him free.
So what did the forgiven debtor do? He went out and found another servant who owed him a much smaller amount—the equivalent of a day’s wages. The first servant demanded payment and refused to show mercy toward his debtor. In fact, he had the second servant thrown into prison until he paid the debt.
Others went to the master and told him what had happened, what his forgiven servant had done to a fellow servant. When the master heard this, he called back the first servant and jailed him for failing to show mercy to a fellow servant when he had been forgiven a much greater debt.
By way of this parable, Jesus was teaching that forgiveness should be in direct proportion to the amount we’ve been forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he in turn should have forgiven all. If you are a child of God, all your sins have been forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when someone sins against you, you are to forgive that person fully from your heart, no matter how many times the act occurs.
Now, this does not mean that you are to continue to place yourself in a position to be abused. But, the spiritual act of forgiving another helps you recall that we are all sinners, and it is God who is judge, not us. As a believer, you have the love of God within you to praise God for His grace to you and forgive another’s actions against you in order that they know that a kind, good, and forgiving God can rescue them from their sin too.
A Prayer to Pray
Jesus, may I always remember with appropriate humility and gratitude the sin condition that was mine without your intervention. Help me to demonstrate this forgiveness to others who have hurt me in order that they may know you and change the direction of their destructive lives.
Fore more encouragement read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.
You know what it’s like when a friend commiserates with you when you are upset. They often assure you that the emotional reaction you described is “normal.” They often tell you that “anyone would have felt that way.”
So, what do we consider normal when we’ve been hurt by another person? Whether our injury is emotional or physical, it’s “normal” to move into retaliation mode. Normal thinks, “You hurt me, so I’m gonna hurt you.” This kind of response is the natural, normal pattern of the world. It’s no secret that forgiveness is not the normal response.
But Jesus shows us a new normal. In fact, He calls us to give the opposite response when we’ve been wronged. We’re to reflect Jesus and give the supernatural response. Returning evil for evil is not how Jesus responded to the abuses heaped upon Him. He responded in the exact opposite way! He said, “if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25). With these words, Jesus Himself lets us know what He desires from us.
Jesus is asking you and me to forgive as He did—to reflect Him. He wants us to respond to a higher standard, a divine standard. Like the saying goes, “To err is human, but to forgive, divine.” This means that if the person who hurts you or devastates your life never repents…or never acknowledges the pain caused to you…or never asks you for forgiveness…or never even says “I’m sorry,” you are still willing to extend forgiveness. Forgiving that person will free you of a heavy burden of bitterness. Forgiveness is not about “them.” It’s not about those who hurt you. It’s about you and your connection with God.
A pure heart filled with God’s security and love will enable you to forgive someone who’s wronged you. Forgiveness must come from the inside and work its way out into a physical response. Jesus knows your heart and He also knows that at times it’s difficult in your heart to forgive those who have hurt you. So, as an act of your will, try responding with a new normal:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:27-31).
How is this done? You can reject the “normal” response of bitterness and holding a grudge. First, mentally refusing to constantly rehash or dwell on a hurt will demonstrate a new normal. A next step would be to extend kindness and goodness. You can send a note. You can give a helping hand. You can smile at that person. Many times you’ll discover that your first move will melt their coldness toward you. But regardless, you will have activated — or defrosted! — any coldness in your heart. You will be moving forward in forgiving a person who’s wronged you. You’ll find your heart melting so you can freely forgive another just as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
Question: How would our churches and outreach to the world be affected if we applied Jesus’ “new normal” for forgiving others? Have you ever witnessed a supernatural act of forgiveness that impacted you?
For more encouragement read, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.
Aloha! Our Thanksgiving was probably a lot like yours–some housework and food prep for the big dinner. However, we began the day with a walk along the water and nearby marina. This sight brought me great peace. Our verse for the day–and all days–is Psalm 118:29: “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” Praise Him!
Turkey Day found Jim hauling “the turkey” from our home across the street to my daughter Courtney’s home for dinner with 19 kids and adults! And, by the way, it was perfectly cooked! One special blessing was being with a family whose husband/dad is deployed to Afghanistan. Many prayers were lifted for him and his safe return in January after a year away from home and loved ones. Join us in praying Matt home!
This picture was taken while I was thinking of you during our Thanksgiving Day festivities, and your loved ones. God’s overarching word to us in the area of thanksgiving is not to reserve it for one special day each year, but to be “giving thanks always for all things” (Ephesians 5:20).
We thank God for your continued support of our books and ministry! We are honored to be a part of helping you live after His own heart!
Let’s take a look at the very origin of forgiveness for the human race by turning back the clock to Genesis 3. What happened after Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden? Well, there were consequences. First, the couple was sentenced to a life of pain and hard labor, neither of which they had ever experienced in the sinless perfection of Eden. Then they were expelled from the garden paradise they had always known and thrust into a sin-laden world to fend and provide for themselves. That’s the bad news.
But the good news is that God forgave the sinful couple He had lovingly created to have sweet, intimate, perfect fellowship with Him. Furthermore, He clothed them (Genesis 3:21) and sent them out to have a new life as opposed to the death their sin merited. Though their new home in the world was nothing as lovely and perfect as what they had experienced in the garden (verses 17-19), God provided for their needs.
Forgiveness back then began with God, and it still does today. God took the initiative to forgive Adam and Eve’s sin. His first act of forgiveness and cleansing toward them was to clothe them with the skins of sacrificed animals. The physical deaths suffered by the animals should have been theirs, but it was the animals that died — a preview of Jesus’ substitutionary death for our sins.
In this act of providing animal skins to cover the nakedness of the man and woman, the Almighty set up a system for forgiving the sins of His people. That system found its final sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin in the death of Jesus. Throughout the Bible, God the Father refers to Himself as the God of forgiveness. And this forgiveness was modeled for us in the life and death of Jesus, God’s Son.
What confidence is yours when you know that you are forgiven in Christ! That forgiveness of sin produces life everlasting, which you began participating in from the moment of salvation. When Christ is your Savior, God’s Holy Spirit comes to reside in you. That means you can exhibit Christ-like behavior (Galatians 5:22-23).
Here’s how it works. Christ in you enables you to reflect Christ-like character. For instance, it allows you to be “longsuffering” or to show “patience.” Longsuffering or patience refers to your ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and your willingness to accept annoying or painful situations. In Christ you are capable of not only withstanding great pain and suffering inflicted by others, but you also possess the strength and power of Christ to forgive — with His love — those who cause the hurt.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord Jesus, thank You for forgiving my sin, and help me in turn to forgive others. Search my heart for situations in which I’m not fully forgiving a wrong inflicted upon me. Whenever I recall the injury, pain, or memory of that hurt, let the beauty of Your forgiveness wash over me. Give me your love and perspective to forgive. Amen.
Find more encouragement to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in my book, A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus.
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