Forgiving Those Who Hurt Us
Luke 17:3,4 If your brother sins… and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.
Though I have been forgiven much in my life, I still find it hard some days to simply forgive repeated offenses. Honestly, I have required far more forgiveness from those around me than I have had to give, but still, when someone wrongs me seven times in a day, I find forgiveness a bitter pill to swallow. Jesus though, insists that as I have been forgiven much, it is my obligation to forgive even repeat offenders.
It is worth noting what forgiveness is and is not. Forgiving the one who hurts us means that we choose to no longer hold the wrong over his or her head. It means we let go of our anger and resentment. We choose to cancel the debt we feel the offender owes us. We do not continue to bring it up with every new conflict.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. I am not capable of erasing my own memory and I do not think that Jesus asks me to try. If I throw a temper tantrum every time my football team loses, my wife may forgive me but still be cautious the next time they play. Past behavior unfortunately does predict future performance. If someone has wronged me seven times in a day, I may forgive, but I am still going to expect that number eight is not far off.
Forgiveness does not mean no boundaries. Many an addict has been frustrated by this. The addict gets clean, asks forgiveness of God and man, and then expects that everyone pretend that the destructive behavior never occurred. Though the he or she has repeatedly wrecked the car, he or she expects that forgiveness means handing over the keys again.
If I slap my brother every time I see him, he may forgive me when I repent, but he may well do so from 10 feet away. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that my brother continues to allow me to hurt him. He may forgive and maintain healthy boundaries. He can cancel my debt without putting himself at risk. In my addiction, my wife may well have had to forgive me from the distance of separation. Forgiving does not mean allowing injury to continue.
Still, it is difficult to forgive and let go of the anger. When others do something hurtful, say they are sorry and then do the thing again, it does not really feel like they are sorry. Jesus says though, that if they say they repent, we are to forgive. He does not say that we are to wait to see if they never fail again before we forgive. We are not to be the judge of true transformation. We are to forgive and let go of our resentment, even if it happens seven times in a day.
As God has forgiven me, He commands that I am to forgive others. In my self-focus, I do not want to let go of repeated offenses. I want justice. The reality is though, as I have been forgiven more than I will ever forgive, I must choose to let go of my resentment and anger.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.