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!“ Matt. 18:21, 22 (NLT)
Peter must have felt so spiritual when he suggested forgiving someone up to seven times. After all, the rabbis taught that three times was sufficient. But, Jesus shocked him when He responded, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!” 490 times! Who could keep count of that many sins? Maybe that was the point Jesus was trying to make. By the time you’ve forgiven someone 490 times, you’ve developed a habit of forgiving. The choice to forgive comes from a heart of love, and the Bible says,
Love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV)
But, the forgiveness Jesus spoke of was never meant to be careless or shallow. Sometimes, we fail to forgive because we misunderstand what forgiveness really means. Forgiveness is a choice of the will. It isn’t a matter of feelings. No one feels like forgiving. It is a supernatural choice that is intentional and repetitive. Every time the hurt comes to mind from an offense, you choose to forgive again. Forgiveness is not minimizing the hurt or living in denial that it didn’t hurt – or that it’s no big deal. That’s another misunderstanding about Biblical forgiveness. The hurt is real, and the pain can linger. Forgiveness is preventing the hurt from turning into hate and becoming a prisoner to bitterness. If you’ve ever been deeply hurt, you know what I mean. You can easily become a victim and lose your victory in Christ, living in self-pity and anger. God never intended us to live as a victim but as a victor! We can take the hurt to Jesus and say as He said from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” God knows your pain and offers healing when you choose to forgive others, just as you have been forgiven in Christ.
One other misunderstanding about forgiveness has to do with trust. Forgiveness isn’t the same thing as trust. When we’ve been hurt, we can choose to forgive immediately, but trust takes time to rebuild. How are you doing in the area of forgiveness? Are you holding onto hurt? Make the choice to forgive and release the pain to God. Let Him heal the hurt in your heart and release the offender to the God who judges justly.