21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
I have written in my Bible, next to this passage of scripture: “WARNING: DO NOT HOLD GRUDGES – YOU WON’T MAKE IT TO HEAVEN!”
In the “Vines Complete Expository Dictionary” forgiveness is defined as to release, to completely cancel, remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, complete removal of the cause of offense.
Forgiveness is a hot topic of debate- how and when and under what conditions it should be applied. But one thing is for certain. Forgiveness is the single most powerful action that if applied in its purest form can change the world. Forgiveness has the power not only to absolve someone of guilt and punishment, forgiveness can renew lives, tender hardened hearts, rebuild shattered relationships and bring hope back into hopeless situations. Forgiveness sets people free. Not just the people who are guilty, but the ones who carry the hurt and animosity.
However, forgiveness, like any other precious treasures, does not always come easy. Our human heart that has been injured, sometimes severely, does not always just pick up and go on. And depending upon how deep and severe the injury, sometimes a person has to work through the hurt.
Christ offers forgiveness to all, but that forgiveness does have some conditions upon it. The conditions are confession and repentance. (Matt, 18:15-17) Why would Christ expect us to uphold a higher standard than himself? We can have a ready heart to forgive someone for an offense, and even go to that person as Christ admonished us to do, but if they will not own up to their wrong and repent- be sorry for the harm they have done to us, what are we to do with our forgiveness?
I recall that when Christ was on the cross, there were with him two criminals, but only to one of them was forgiven of sins and admission into heaven promised. It was to the contrite thief. The one who railed on him lost out. Yet Christ did not retaliate. He left the judgement in God’s hands.
But then too, I also recall that as he hung there, completely and humiliatingly naked . . .
as he writhed in suffering and agony while men gaped upon him and mocked at him with no sense of pity or compassion for his very life being unjustly stripped from him, he cried out these words, “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.”
So the other day as I was struggling with forgiveness for a certain individual who has done much harm to me and has cause me life-long emotional pain and scars, I was praying and asking God to help me with forgiveness within my heart. I think I have this forgiveness thing settled and then the memories come up or the offense is there and the unacknowledged wrongs done to me are still there. My mind then began to turn to this individuals own life and I began to sympathize and feel sorry for this individual; this is the pattern I often turn to in my mind to “help me forgive.” But this time God stopped me. This time God spoke to me and said, “Liz, the only way you can do this is to set your eyes on JESUS! You must LOOK at the CROSS of CHRIST And when you forgive, forgive not because you feel sorry for what the individual has gone through. That is like trying to find a reason that they deserve forgiveness. You don’t need a reason. Forgive for CHRIST’S sake. Look upon HIM who loved YOU and gave HIMSELF for YOU! And for HIS SAKE! forgive!.”
And suddenly, GRACE! AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, PEACEFUL, WONDERFUL, HEARTFELT, GRACE! Came pouring into my soul and filled me with all the love and forgiveness I could ever need or want or hold and it was not anything from myself. It was all because of CHRIST. The beautiful sacrifice of Calvary. The glorious, victorious, Lord and savior of the world.
Christ taught us to forgive seventy times seven in just one day. Sometimes the offenses can come at us just that many times. Especially when whole groups of people are raised up against you as they were in the case of Christ and Stephen. And sometimes you can be misjudged by the multitudes and nothing you do or say is right in their eyes and seventy times seven times a day thoughts of these misjudgments come to rankle within your heart and pierce your heart like a million knives being stabbed into you. And you wrestle against the tide of bitterness that wants to overwhelm your soul and the enemy is ever watching your every move so he can have occasion to accuse you and say, “AHA!”
And so God says, “turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. (Hebrews 12:2-3)