What Is Forgiveness?

“Then Peter came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT)

What is the Lord seeking to teach us about giving and receiving forgiveness? What will we do with that knowledge? How are our lives being affected by what we believe about forgiveness? What does it mean to be forgiven? To forgive? These and many other questions invade my mind as I wait before the Lord to hear what He would have me share today.

Forgiveness is a multi-faceted consideration. God needs no forgiveness, but we do. Yet, His forgiveness of us is often contingent upon our willingness to forgive others.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with his servants. He brought one servant in who owed him millions of dollars. Because the servant couldn’t pay his debt, his master ordered that the servant, his wife, and each of his children should be sold in order to pay his debt.

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As the story unfolds, the servant fell down before the king and begged him to be patient, telling him that he would find a way to pay the huge debt. The king was so moved by his pleading that he decided to forgive the servant his entire debt.

But when the servant left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded immediate payment of his debt. The man fell down before him and begged for a little more time. But, unlike the king who had forgiven him his debt, he demanded his fellow servant be thrown into jail until every penny was repaid.

When some of the other servants saw what had happened, they went to the king and told him. Then the king called in the servant whose debt he’d forgiven and, because of his unwillingness to extend mercy to his fellow servant, the king had the man sent to prison and tortured until every penny was repaid.

Then Jesus said: That’s what My heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Obviously, He’s speaking of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because, while He paid the debt of sin for everyone who would seek His forgiveness, only those of us who have received His mercy and grace and found forgiveness from our sin, can begin to fathom the mountain of debt we owed that we could have never repaid, even if we had an eternity to try. We have no recourse but to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.

But what of those outside the family of God who hurt us in innumerable ways? What of those who’ve committed sins against us that literally have eternal consequences? Drunk drivers who have killed a family member or maimed us for life? Assaults against us, our children, or others we love, the consequences of which we’ll struggle to our last breath? The scenarios are too numerous to list, but you likely drew to mind a person or circumstance even as you were reading these words.

We’ll look at this more closely tomorrow but consider this: the reason forgiveness of others is so essential is because the grief, agony, and suffering experienced because of our unwillingness to forgive isn’t an issue for the offender, it’s an issue for us. It’s as if we’ve swallowed a cup of poison, expecting the other person to die. Unforgiveness only hurts one person – us!

Blessings, Ed 😊

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