“… 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.” – Matthew 18:21 – 22
The act of forgiveness is one of the few acts that can truly bring you closer to God. Above all things, we seek and depend on God’s Grace and Mercy, which he shows us through forgiveness. In Matthew 18: 21 – 22 Jesus tells us that we should forgive someone that has done wrong to us not seven times, but seventy times seven. Forgiving someone that has done you wrong is a liberating exercise that will benefit you and the person who hurt you.
In Matthew Chapter 18 Jesus is giving a sermon to his followers on various issues. In verses 1 through 6 Jesus is speaking of ranking in the Kingdom of God, verses 7 through 11 he is talking of stumbling blocks, verses 12 through 14 he discusses about going astray, and 15 through 20 discipline and prayer. Jesus is then interrupted by Peter who asks Christ about forgiveness.
I find it interesting that Peter would interrupt Jesus’s sermon to ask about something completed unrelated to what Christ was discussing, that leads me to believe that Peter has been carrying this hurt with him for a long time and it has become a burden. Also, it is evident in the text that Peter has forgiven whoever hurt him before, but they keep doing it which leads me to believe this is someone close to Peter.
The first step to fulfilling God’s Grace and Mercy in your life is to forgive all those who have done you wrong. Some of us have been cheated on in our relationships or out of a job, or you may have been verbally abused, some have been sexually assaulted, others may have had money or a loved one taking from them, and the one that hurt you could be living in the same house or is in the same family as you.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield provides us with these Tips for Forgiveness:
1. There is no such thing as an unforgivable act. So don’t let your fear of what you did, or rage about what was done to you, dissuade you from either seeking or granting forgiveness.
2. Mind your own business. We can only grant forgiveness for that which was done to us and should only seek forgiveness for that which we have done.
3. Stay balanced. The number of apologies you seek should be proportional to the number you are willing to offer, because the doing of each nurtures the capacity for the other.
4. Know that you are never alone. From God’s perspective, sincere effort to correct the past renders earns any of us what my kids call a do over.
5. Honor the past, but don’t let yourself be imprisoned by it. Don’t allow your fear of forgetting what was done to you keep you from forgiving those who did it.
6. Allow love to triumph over logic. There will always be a good reason to keep doing what you are doing or to withhold your forgiveness from someone else. But real issue is whether or not you love them enough to go beyond that logic.
7. Keep it simple. Apologize for, or forgive, one thing at a time. There is always more to the story, but this is not the moment to explore it.
8. The answer doesn’t always have to be yes. We are not always ready to forgive and that is okay. But the answer shouldn’t always be no, either. Consider what you loose by saying no, and be concerned if that has become your default response.
9. Remember that forgiveness is not always the end of the process, but the beginning of a new level of relationship which may continue to be shaped by those past acts which demanded forgiveness.
10. Celebrate the moment of forgiveness in some way that rewards both the one seeking forgiveness and the one who grants it. A hug, a kiss, perhaps something even more intimate. A drink or a shared meal. Whatever it is, you have both accomplished a major thing, so make the most of it.
An unwillingness to forgive is an unwillingness to stop living in the past. If you are not able to forgive and move on then you will stay in hurt and pain for the rest of your life. So, let it go! Forgive and forget, for forgiveness is a gift from God and in the same manner we are awarded his forgiveness we should be willing to extend that courtesy to others.