Ask yourself a question, “Do I have to forgive that person?”
Who comes to your mind when you think about the call to forgive? Who is your “That Person”?
Who has wronged you? Who said, “I will be with you no matter what…through the good and bad times,” and then they bailed out on you? Who betrayed your trust? Who is that person who should have protected you but they hurt you instead…and they hurt you badly! Who ripped you off in a business deal, lied to you, took advantage of you, or neglected you?
That is the person God wants you to forgive!
In Matthew 18 we read about Jesus teaching his disciples the importance of forgiveness and restored relationships. After Jesus gave a simple process to walk through to make sure we do everything possible to live with healed and healthy relationships, Peter came up to the Savior and asked if he should forgive up to seven times.
This specific number might seem strange to the modern reader but it was actually a generous and offer. In Peter’s day the religious leaders taught that a good and religious person need only forgive three times:
“He who begs for forgiveness from his neighbor must not do so more than three times.” – Rabbi Jose ben Hanina
“If a man commits an offense once, they forgive him; If he commits an offense a second time, they forgive him; If he commits an offense a third time, they forgive him; the forth time they do not forgive.” – Rabbi Jose ben Jehuda
In light of the religious norm in Peter’s day, he was actually being generous. Peter doubled the number of times people normally forgave and then added one more for good measure! He must have expected Jesus to affirm his lavish offer to forgive with such reckless abandon…up to seven times!
The response Peter received must have put him back on his heals. Jesus said, “Not seven times but seventy.” (or seven times seventy) No matter how we translate the number, the point is the same. Jesus was saying, we are to forgive, and forgive, and then forgive more. We are to extend the same opulent and abundant grace that we have received through faith in Jesus Christ.
Christians forgive…it is what we do.
Who is “That Person” in your life? When you ask the question, “Do I really have to forgive that person?” who comes to your mind. Make a decision to pray for strength to forgive them and ask God to help you share the very grace God gave you when you did not deserve it.
To dig deeper into this topic, see the sermon I preached recently on forgiveness: Click on Week 2 of our Seeds of Truth Series videos.