Monday, February 6, 2012

Multiplying Forgiveness

Over the past few days, closer to weeks actually, I've been thinking a great deal about forgiveness. Particularly this passage in Matthew:

"Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Mt. 18:21-22

And I've had an interesting thought on it. Well, interesting to me. Usually when I read this passage or hear it, I think something along the lines of "well, if a person sins against me, I should forgive them. And if they sin against me again, I should forgive them again, and on and on." But recently, I had that usual interpretation flipped around a bit.

See, there's a person who has hurt me. And this person has never asked for forgiveness, has never even addressed the hurtful words and deed and pretty much just goes on as if nothing happened. And it hurts. And months ago the Lord pressed on my heart the need to forgive this person. Even if they never say a word or offer any kind of apology, I needed to forgive them.

And I did. I forgave them.

But then a few days later, the memory resurfaced and I was hurting all over again. Now what?

I forgave them again.

And a few days later...I had to forgive them again.

Anytime that hurt threatened to invade my heart or my mind, I forgave them. Over and over and over again. And in the midst of this process, I kept asking God to help me be truly forgiving. I was afraid that I wasn't doing it right. If I had truly forgiven them, wouldn't that hurt be gone? Hmmmm, not necessarily.

I wanted not just to forgive, but to forget as well. To forgive this person so completely that the old hurt would never come back. But forgiveness isn't about amnesia, it's about grace. So when I remembered this passage in Matthew, I began to think of it in a new way. Maybe it's not just that we have to be willing to forgive someone who sins against us over and over again, though we have to be ready to do that...maybe sometimes we also have to be willing to forgive just one thing over and over again.


  1. Very nice insight and challenging for all of us. I heard a preacher say that true forgiveness is wishing the other person well. We have to somehow reach the point (through God's grace) where we actually hope good things happen to the person who hurt us. That's my daily challenge.

  2. Thanks, friend! I'll be praying for you.

  3. I don't think it's always wise to forget an offense.

    Many years ago, I was raped. I was only a teenager. I eventually came to a place of forgiveness. He never asked for it, either. I forgave in order to move on. Do I still remember? Yes. But the memories of it have faded and recalling it no longer holds the same force it once did. If I were to forget what happened I would lose the ability to help others in the same situation.

    Forgiving someone is not always a one-time act. It is often a process that takes time, effort and dedication. It is not failure to remember the offense, or even feel pain from it all over again. You can get through it. It might not be a fast journey, but it will be worthwhile.

    1. Wow, what an amazing story to share. Thank you so much.