You want me to do what 490 times?

This is an older post but I’ve been busy and forgiveness is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately so…

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As Christians we are asked to do, or not do, a number of things. Some of these things like not committing murder, not stealing, and not committing adultery are easy. Others, like not lying, always being a good example, always acting like you have hope in the future, and constantly battling sins of the flesh are harder.

And when it comes to offering forgiveness, well that can seem almost impossible even to the most committed Christians.

I have been a Christian a long time and one of the Bible stories that never ceases to blow my mind a little every time I hear it is the one where Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who has sinned against him.

In typical fashion, Jesus rocks Peter’s world by giving the seemingly absurd answer of “seventy times seven” and then follows with a parable about forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35).

When I hear or read this I always think, “Holy cow, 490 times? That’s a lot of forgiving!” But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? We are to never stop forgiving.

Jesus makes this point very clear when He says that, unless we forgive others, our Father in heaven will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25)

Think about that for a second.

Forgiveness, as it seems to Jesus, is a very serious matter that cannot be taken lightly or disregarded because it’s counterintuitive or against our nature, not in the least.

So, how do we go about forgiving as Jesus wants us to? Should we draw a line in the sand and tell all those who have wronged us that, from today forward, the past is in the past, all is forgiven, and you will not hold what they did to you against them anymore, ever?

Well, yes.

And this forgiveness should be immediate and not dependent on whether the offending person asked for it or, in your mind anyway, even deserves it.

490 may seem like a high number when it comes to forgiveness but it pales in comparison to the number of times God will forgive the average Christian who commits a lifetime of sin.

Now this doesn’t mean you required to trust people that offend you immediately or let them continue to hurt you. It takes time and effort to rebuild trust and repair broken relationships and, relationships with people who continue to offend or cause you pain can, and sometimes should, be severed.

What this does mean however, is that forgiven offense can no longer be wielded as weapons or pulled out to be used as an ace in the hole whenever you want to use them to inflict pain, win an argument, shut someone up, or make you feel better about yourself by tearing someone else down.

What do you think our Father in Heaven, who will not forgive us unless we master the art of forgiving others thinks every time you say. “Oh yeah, remember that time when you ______?” Or, “Why do you always ______?”

If a person has offended you or wronged you, you need to forgive them unconditionally and completely and not act out in anger every time you can to make it abundantly clear to them that you are still hurting or to teach them a lesson.

Think about it. Is how you react to an offense just as bad as the offense itself? Have you been given a right to hurt others in order to undo injustices?

If you claim to have offered someone forgiveness yet they still anger you, or you dwell constantly on their past offense(s), or you see nothing but their past offense(s) every time you see them or think about them, or you constantly strive to get back at them, to make them suffer, or make them miserable, then you have not forgiven them at all.

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45 replies

  1. You know I always find so many Christians who “qualify” forgiveness. I remind them that Jesus himself forgave the very ones that led Him to His death. Forgiveness is sometimes a process, but I have found if you are committed to the process the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Great post

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have to agree with Melissa as there are way too many who want to qualify forgiveness. But to the point of your article; PRAISE THE NAME OF CHRIST JESUS!!! Believe it or not, I was ministering in a church in Arizona when from behind the pulpit, the Pastor (the leader of this church) stated just the opposite of what you wrote and actually had a lot of qualifiers!!! AND to top it off, he taught that after 490 times the obligation is over???!!!!
    “When I hear or read this I always think, “Holy cow, 490 times? That’s a lot of forgiving!” But then, that’s the point, isn’t it? We are to never stop forgiving.” I ended up resigning AND writing a pocket book entitled “A Forgiving Spirit,” and actually incorporated an expanded form of that as a chapter in my book entitled, “Walking With Christ.” It was well received by many in that town as I actually gave out the pocket books for free.
    Either God’s children (or those claiming to be) want to take all the Word literally or they want to take the Word as an analogy! They have such a hard time “discerning” the Spirit of the Word but as stated a number of times, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Our Holy Bible is a LIVING breathing Life. It is the written form or the Living Word Christ Jesus! Truly the Bible tells us to understand the Word we have to be spiritually discerning for it is not understood in the natural (outside of a historical or mythological treatise) and true it is for it is alive spiritually! How can anyone who is a follower and disciple of Christ NOT be forgiving in all things, all ways?!
    Anyway, love your article and am in the process of getting around and reading more. Been without a computer for a couple of months and trying to catch up with brothers and sisters in the Lord! Many blessings to you and yours and all the more so as you continue in service to the Lord and to all of us!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment.

      There was a lot here but the only thing that popped into my head was this. Christ forgives us without a qualifier so, if He is to be who we imitate, what right do we have to qualify forgiveness?

      Forgiveness is hard, don’t get me wrong, but it is also Christ-like and expected.

      James

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amen James but as we mature in Christ, it DOES get easier. Don’t get me wrong it can still be a battle, but when you consider more and more the eternal ramifications, forgiveness becomes easier and easier! Love you brother and your servants heart towards the Lord and to each and everyone of us!!!!

        Like

        • Thanks for the compliments 🙂

          I have been trying to help a couple through some issues that deal with forgiveness and it has been incredibly difficult. Both are nice people but they have both treated each other horribly and they both take offense to the same bad behavior they are both guilty of.

          One of them wants to draw a line in the sand, let the past go, and press one. But the other won’t concede to pride and do the same.

          There is a bunch of love and good between them but the sin of not being able to forgive is destroying them.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, James you have my prayers for them also. Where two or three are gathered together, the Lord is there and I believe that is also in the spirit! As you pray, myself and others pray, it will allow the Holy Spirit to convince and illuminate to you how to deal and them in which ways they need to walk to secure the Lord’s blessing for their lives. Service is not always easy, but continue in Love, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and He’ll let you know when to push and when to back off! Then it’s just a matter of letting Him do what He will in their lives. You DO have my prayers, brother!

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  3. 7×7 10-times over… In other words, never stop. Great reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had an uncle, my favorite on in fact. Uncle Billy was his name. He had quite a reputation from when he was a young man of being quite the brutish person. just mean as could be to every one around him and angry all of the time. Yet, I knew him as the kindest, gentlest man on earth, and so did his grandchildren. What happened to him?

    Luke 6:27-38 happened to him. After he died, the family was going through his Bible and found that passage starred, underlined, and highlighted. Some notes indicated that he first did that…about the year he began to become the kind, gentle person rather than the angry one that he was. He had read that passage every single day for something like 30 years or more.

    Forgiveness matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been reading this blog a while but have never commented. I am commenting now because this post has given me something to think about, specifically this part.

    “What do you think our Father in Heaven, who will not forgive us unless we master the art of forgiving others thinks every time you say. “Oh yeah, remember that time when you ______?”

    If a person has offended you or wronged you, you need to forgive them unconditionally and completely and not act out in anger every time you can to make it abundantly clear to them that you are still hurting or to teach them a lesson.

    Think about it. Is how you react to an offense just as bad as the offense itself? Have you been given a right to hurt others in order to undo injustices?”

    My wife and I are both Christians that have fallen away from God the past several years. Also during the past several years our marriage has suffered and I don’t think it can ever be repaired.

    We have wronged each other and we both treat each other badly. So badly in fact that I am beginning to think there is no hope in anything and that I have little or no self-worth and no reason to go on.

    My wife uses the “Oh yeah, remember that time when you ______?” on me relentlessly and it borders on emotional abuse. Every time I am in a room with her I get nothing dirty looks, snide remarks, corrections, rebukes. Nothing, and I mean nothing I do is good enough or deserving of her love or kindness.

    I am drowning here and I need help.

    Robert

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I do have a love and concern for other people I just rarely show it and I never feel that people have a love and concern for me.

    I am surrounded by people all the time but no one really cares.

    Robert

    Like

  7. James,

    Sure, you can ask whatever you want. She is down on professional counselors in general. She doesn’t think they are particularly useful. And she is a very private person who does not like to talk about her problems.

    Robert

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert,

      To copy Dr. Phil, how’s that working out for her? Do you ever talk about your problems?

      I know pride gets in the way and we like to feel like we have it all together but the truth is, all of us have hurts that we need to talk about. Keeping what’s bothering us bottled up inside is dangerous physically and emotionally.

      James

      Like

  8. I like the Dr. Phil line and, truth is, what we have both been doing isn’t working out for either of us at all.

    I also internalize my problems and withdraw. A few weeks ago she was pushing my buttons and I exploded on her and one of the kids. I didn’t hurt them and they weren’t in danger but I scared the Hell out of them and myself.

    It was at that moment I realized I needed God’s help.

    Like

    • Wow. Lashing out at people is never a good thing but that is what happens when we don’t have a positive outlet.

      I have reacted poorly before too, we all have, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we are bad people.

      You said you realized you needed God’s help then. I think you are absolutely right but, what did you do.

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      • I prayed. But it hasn’t done any good because my relationship with God is broken. I don’t think He cares about me any more.

        Like

        • I think I understand what you mean here because my own relationship with God was on again off again for a while but how exactly did your relationship with God become broken?

          God loves and has made holy millions of people who were unworthy, you are no less worthy than anyone.

          You said at the beginning that you were a Christian who has fallen away, is that it? Do you think you are beyond God’s reach?

          Like

          • God and I had a good thing going for a while James. My wife, kids, and I went to church, were active in the church, and were very happy.

            We moved, never found a church we liked, and have never been back. I started doing my own thing, sinning and not even caring about it.

            My wife hurt me, we separated but got back together, I hurt her back, we have money problems that are all my fault. Although I think I am a good father and I love my kids, I do not pay attention to them and do not show them love like I should.

            When I said that I realized I needed God’s help, I believe I do but I feel kind of like a schmuck asking for it.

            What I really want is for God to swoop in, fix my problems, fix my attitude, and fix my behavior. But I feel like there is no point. Even if I started acting like the man I used to be, the man my wife used to love, it would do no good. Too little, too late I think my wife would say.

            I walked out on God, why would He bless me?

            Robert

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          • Robert,

            I can’t explain why people accept Christ as their savior and continue in or fall back into a life of sin but it does happen and it happens all the time. That being said, I will tell you this.

            One of the most wonderful truths of Scripture is that God freely forgives sin. Because God’s grace is infinite, there is no limit to the sin God is willing to forgive in Christ. No sin is beyond the reach of God’s grace. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). The apostle Paul was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” before his salvation (1 Timothy 1:13). He called himself the chief of sinners, but after he found the grace of God, he said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). If God can save Paul, He can save anyone.

            I know that sounds more like it was written for people who have never been saved but it applies to you as well and it is something you need to fully understand.

            No one, and I mean no one, is beyond the grace of God and salvation through Christ.

            You have been traveling down a bumpy road but you can turn around and head back to God, He will welcome you with open arms.

            James

            Like

  9. Bumpy is an understatement James, my life has totally sucked.

    My big problem here isn’t God, it’s everyone else. If I recommit my life to Christ and change, I really don’t think it will do any good. I think my relationship with my wife is damaged beyond repair.

    I told her a few days ago I have been praying and want to go back to church and she just looked at me like, why?

    Like

  10. I can here it now. “You can’t just start going to church and expect all our problems to go away.”

    Like

  11. Never thought about it, I don’t pray for her. She acts like she hates me. If I had to, I guess I would pray for her to change back into the woman she was years ago.

    Like

    • Forgive me for being blunt here Robert but do you want God to swoop in, change her, and giver her a forgiving heart so you can feel confident enough to forgive her back?

      If she has been living her life apart from God, as you have, she very likely may hate you.

      That however is no excuse not to pray that God changes your heart, your attitude, and your behavior.

      If you are sitting around just waiting for someone else to change so they can make you happy, you may die waiting.

      I think you know what you need to do here.

      You need to ask yourself two questions.

      1. What will happen to my marriage if I keep going on like I have been?

      2. Do I fully believe that God can change me and make me into the husband I used to be?

      James

      Like

  12. James,

    I have been sitting in my office alone for the past hour thinking about our conversation and praying like I have never prayed before.

    I know when I walk into my house this afternoon I will be walking into a firestorm, as usual. But I also know I can and will survive it. The plan is not to retreat into silence from my wife’s verbal jabs or to respond in kind but to let them bounce off and respond with love.

    Must be God at work, I have a confidence and peace I have not had in a very long time.

    Robert

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Forgiveness is choosing to treat someone not as though they deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

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