Retired Pastor Pat Duffin
“I will never forgive that miserable ‘so-and-so’ after what he did to me! Not only will I never forgive; I will never forget. And for sure, I will never let him forget either.”
Have you ever had a conversation like that with yourself? Most of us have. And we have felt totally justified for thinking and feeling that way. The hurt and harm inflicted upon us was just too painful and damaging to simply dismiss the offence as a small mistake or inconsequential thing.
Some of us have been deeply wounded and even scarred for life. That is when forgiving someone gets difficult. We know we are in the right; the other is clearly in the wrong, and the offence is too serious to just shrug off.
What are we supposed to do?
Does God really require us to forgive? How often? What if this person is continually wounding us and others? What if they are truly toxic? What if they are pure evil? Surely, we do not have to forgive under those circumstances!
For those of us who want to follow Jesus, to live and love as He so freely did, we have no choice. It is God’s will, and it is in keeping with the character of Jesus Christ.
Even if we, too, are confronted with hurt that might parallel the physical and emotional pain that Jesus suffered, we are obliged to forgive as freely as He did.
Consider this, naked, helplessly impaled on a tree, beaten to an unrecognizable pulp, bleeding profusely from a multitude of painful wounds, barely clinging to life, yet He was able to breathe a heartfelt prayer of compassion for His tormentors, “Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:23]
His suffering, and how He handled it, was so emotionally impactful that a condemned reprobate changed from cursing and reviling Him to acknowledging Him. [Luke 23:32-43]
Meanwhile, a hardened Roman executioner exclaimed, “Surely this was the Son of God!” [Matthew 27:54]
So, when Jesus told Peter over 2,000 years ago to forgive 70 times seven, or 70 times the number of perfection -meaning 70 times infinity. [Matthew 18:21-22]
Jesus’ command is totally credible even to this very day.
For those who want to follow Jesus, they must find a way through their hurt and pain to love, forgive and pray for all those who despitefully use and abuse us. If God had not done that for us, perhaps we might have been able to wiggle off the hook.
But Jesus went on to explain the principle to Peter from God’s point of view, by telling a story. In that same Gospel passage where Jesus tells Peter He is obliged to forgive 70 times seven, Jesus tells the ‘Parable of the Unworthy Servant’ [Matthew 18:23-35] who begs the king for time and patience to pay a very great debt. To his surprise, the king understands that the servant will never be able to repay, so he forgives him and discharges him from his great debt.
The unjust, unworthy servant then goes and finds a fellow servant who owes him a very insignificant debt. The fellow servant also begs for mercy and time to repay, but the unworthy servant has his fellow servant beaten and thrown into debtor’s prison until he has paid every penny that is owed.
When the king hears about this travesty, he summons the unworthy servant and delivers him into prison to be tortured until he pays every penny of his great and impossible debt.
Why was the king so angry with the unworthy servant whom he had forgiven? Because, the unworthy servant having had his great debt forgiven and discharged had experienced a very great and generous act of forgiveness. As such, he could be, and was, expected to treat others as mercifully as he himself had been treated.
But because he had not softened his heart toward someone else who owed an extremely small debt, he had his own forgiveness revoked for his lack of compassion and forgiveness. Had he never been forgiven, himself, he could possibly plead that he did not understand.
But because he had received a great act of forgiveness, he could not make a legitimate plea that he did not know nor understand, nor could he claim that the amount owed was too great to let go in the light of the great forgiveness he had received.
An offence against infinite God creates an infinite offence. Therefore, Jesus has forgiven us a very great debt to God that we, in no way, could pay on our own. He has shown us great mercy, compassion, understanding and kindness.
Having now experienced such love, it is reasonable to expect that we could, and should, now show similar kindness and generosity toward others who owe us much smaller debts than what we owed to God. Having experienced great forgiveness, we now know what it looks and feels like.
It is, therefore, unjust, and wicked for us to withhold forgiveness for far lesser debts when we have received so great a forgiveness seven to infinity.
For us who have received God’s forgiveness, extending forgiveness to anyone is not an option. [Mark 11:25-26]
Watch for an upcoming study on “Forgiveness Breakthrough – How to Forgive When We Are Blocked.”