21 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?"
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. - Matthew 18:21-22
What a great time of year for our pastor to take us to the topic of forgiveness in our reflections for this week. How can we possibly prepare our hearts for the coming of the King if the bitterness of unforgiveness lives in our hearts? We can’t. But so many of us walk around with a broken piece of our heart shut off to someone or something from our past that hurt us so deeply we don’t have the capability to forgive, and so many of us are suffering the consequences of that unforgiveness in our lives. Who do you need to forgive? Who is it that could walk into the room right now and you would avoid, or would have you moaning about to the person next to you, or perhaps would have you acting outwardly as if nothing was wrong, but inwardly cause you to growl? Who is it that has hurt you so bad with their insensitivity, their lack of compassion or perspective that you would prefer to cut off from your life? Who is it that has abused you, or committed an “unforgivable” sin against you? Before we can begin to welcome the Messiah, we must engage our hearts, open the wounds, and allow God to walk us through the path of unforgiveness.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is not a feeling. You will never feel forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice; it’s an act of the will. Forgiveness is releasing another from the obligation of personal injury. It is treating them as though it never happened. It’s not pretending it never happened; it’s treating them as though it never happened - not just outwardly, but from deep within your heart. There’s a big difference.
The parable of the unforgiving servant is the perfect illustration of true forgiveness. In Matthew 18, the king was extremely angry with the servant who owed him millions of dollars. He pulled in the servant and said, “You have to pay me right now.” The servant begged and said, “Have mercy. Please forgive me.” The king did, and said, “You don’t have to pay.” He released him from the debt. That's the definition of forgiveness - to release the offender. Forgiveness is the decision to release a person from the obligation that results when they injure you. Forgiveness is a decision to treat the person that hurt you as though it never happened. Forgiveness is not pretending an offense never happened. Forgiveness is also not interacting with the person in such a way that would giving then the opportunity to do it again. Forgiveness is treating the person as if the incident never took place. It’s releasing the person from the obligation that resulted when they hurt you. That’s what the king did with the servant; that’s what we must do.
Forgiveness isn’t something we can do in our own power, it is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit. When the offense is so deep that it causes a wound, we do not have the power in ourselves to forgive. We must intentionally seek forgiveness through Christ - we have to go to Him first, lay our hurts down before Him, and allow Him to cover the sin against us in forgiveness.
One of the most beautiful parts of having a cancer diagnosis is the shift in perspective. What’s truly important becomes what’s truly important and offenses just fall away. In the grand scheme of things, those hurts just don’t matter anymore. God has taken this opportunity to shift my focus from the little to the broad. We spend so much time getting wrapped up in the way people treat us, we can get so offended at the way people speak to us, at the decisions people make that impact us that we forget to show mercy. We are a forgiven people and forgiven people forgive. So thankful for the shift in perspective He has given me in this diagnosis!
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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