Forgiven and Forgiving
Matthew 18:21,22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Jesus’ teaching was painful. No one likes forgiving someone over and over for recurrent destructive behavior. I know in my mind that I have been forgiven much, but still, I chafe at the idea of letting go of my right to anger when someone injures me repeatedly. It is a bitter irony that the same defects in me that require so much forgiveness from the father are the same defects that prevent me from forgiving others.
I, who have been forgiven so much, by God and loved ones, should be the most forgiving person in the world. Still though, I cling to my right to justice (only applied as I see fit) that prevents me from forgiving. If I forgive, I give up my right to be bitter, which I maintain, as I am just not ready to surrender it for the one who has repeatedly offended me.
Make no mistake. Forgiveness means giving up my bitterness and resentment. It is a disposition of my mind in which I let go of my right to remain angry and hold another in my debt for the wrong they have done to me. Forgiving does not require repentance or requisition on the part of the offender. The one who wrongs me may never say they are sorry, but for my own spiritual health, Jesus said that I am to continually forgive.
Forgiving does not mean that I return to the relationship as if nothing ever happened. If someone borrows and wrecks my car five times, I can forgive without handing over my keys the next time. In my addiction, I repeatedly hurt my wife. She will tell you that forgiving does not mean forgetting. Though she has forgiven much, it would be ridiculous of me to ask her to forget the lessons of the past.
Repeated injury may well require boundaries. Forgiving does not mean that I must return to an abusive situation in which I allow myself to be the ongoing victim of predictable bad behavior.
Jesus did insist however, that as I have been forgiven of so much, I must forgive those who have wronged me. Clinging to my anger and resentment grows a cancer in me that will consume me from the inside. Forgiving may be of some benefit to the one I forgive, but it is critical for my own spiritual condition. If I want to grow God in me, I need to accept his continued forgiveness and continually forgive others. Forgiving is not optional for the one forgiven by God.