How many times should I forgive? Seven? Jesus replied “Seventy times seven”. Forgiveness is a continual thing. It’s not about keeping count, it is a way of living in the grace of God.
Parable of the ungrateful servant – Matthew 18:23-25. Man owed 10,000 talents. That was 10x the GDP of the region. An unpayable debt. “Be patient with me” he pleaded to the master “And I will repay”. The debt was completely forgiven and he was let go. Immediately he went out and found a man that owed him a day’s wage. He grabbed the man and choked him demanding full repayment. “Be patient with me”. He refused and had him thrown in jail. The master heard about this and asked him, “Shouldn’t you have mercy on him just as I have had on you?”
David and Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 12. He took Bathsheba and ordered, in effect, the murder of her husband. His heart was so hardened, he couldn’t see his own sin. God raised up Nathan to confront him. Nathan tells David the story of two men – one of them rich with a large number of sheep and cattle. The other had just one small ewe lamb. It lived and grew up with his children, drank from his cup and slept in his arms. It was a like a daughter to him. The rich man had a guest coming for dinner and couldn’t bring himself to kill one of his own sheep and he took the poor man’s lamb for the meal. David heard this story and was infuriated saying “this man deserves to die”. Nathan saying essentially, “David, you are this man in the story. You have everything and anything you could want but it wasn’t enough. You took Bathsheba – all that Uriah had – and you had Uriah killed.”
How many of us live our lives like that ungrateful servant?
How many of us are like David? God has given us so much and yet we just take more.
How many of us need a Nathan?
Let’s go back and read Galatians 5 but this time from the Message …
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (please don’t!)
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
The first part is more than a man who fears God should be able to hear. I personally was convicted hearing that list in this paraphrase. Whoa. All of us are guilty. All fall short.
Most of us have also been the victim of this. We’ve suffered loneliness at the hands of others. Cutthroat competition might have cost us our job. A parent with a brutal temper might have harmed us as children. We’ve come from divided homes, fractured lives. We’ve lived with family members with uncontrolled addictions. For many of us these things have come down on us from above – a coach, a parent, a boss, a spouse. For some of us, a perhaps an even deeper pain, it’s come from below us, from our own children.
It costs us. It grieves us. It brings great, great pain. Either from our own doing or things done to us, we’ve all picked up some scars along the way. More on that in a minute.
How do you forgive? How possibly can you forgive?
First, realize that I’m the ungrateful servant when I have received the Father’s grace and blessings but I refuse to forgive those who have sinned against me. I owed a debt that could not be paid and He sent Jesus to the Cross. Jesus forgave me of an unpayable debt.
Second, know that there is a consequence of unforgiveness – There is a vital connection between receiving God’s grace and forgiving others. If I’m unwilling to forgive, it says something about my ability to receive God’s grace. Refusing to forgive = a life of collecting debts. We refuse to live free. We run around collecting debts thinking it will fill the void in our life.
When I refuse to forgive, I am the one who suffers the consequences of unforgiveness.
The most powerful person in your life is the person you refuse to forgive. They may be dead but they still control you, your thoughts and your emotions. When you think of them, you’re bound up in unforgiveness, bitterness or hatred. This person is controlling you.
Want a humorous look at this? —>
That person you refuse to forgive? They live right there, rent free, in between your eyes and Satan is having a field day with you. Much of my brokenness is from the sins of others against me. If I am unwilling to forgive, it’s going to cost me greatly. I will be tormented by the thoughts and pain of what was done to me. Healing/Wholeness starts with forgiveness. It is a means of living grace.
Let me give you one more powerful way you can forgive. You can share your story.
“When we share the scars of our story, our wounds transform into weapons of light”.
more on that in another post…