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
As followers of Jesus Christ, forgiveness is not optional. It’s just something we are called to do - if God is to forgive our sins, we must forgive those who have offended us. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." - Mark 11:25.
We must consistently be checking our hearts for places we are harboring resentment and bitterness toward another person, and we must bring it before Him. Many of us live under the lie that forgiveness can only happen through an interaction with the person who offended us. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Oftentimes, the other person has no awareness of the hurt they caused you; and if they do, they often don’t care enough to understand the pain they caused. Here is an important truth on forgiveness —> forgiveness is not contingent upon the other person. They don’t need to apologize or have a discussion with you for you to forgive. In fact, waiting for the other person to figure it out will only lead to greater problems and more forgiveness; demanding that you be heard and understood will only make matters worse.
The only way forward, out of the bitterness and resentment, away from the anger and the hurt is forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to freedom. Until the other person sees their sin, it remains between you and God - you do not need to speak forgiveness to the other person. In fact, it’s often more damaging, and truly prideful at the root, to outwardly forgive a person who does not see their sin. Forgiveness is between you and God. Roll off your hurt to God until your heart believes the other person does not owe you or need to come back and make it right. When you interact with the person, your only response is kindness - not facetious kindness, thinking and acting as if you are the better person, but genuine kindness that comes from the heart of a believer who understands God died their sins just as He died for yours, and He continues to work on their heart just as He’s working in yours. Recognize that the hurt this person caused you may have been meant for evil, but God is using it to expose your faults, to grow your character, and to increase your faith. He is using it for your good. Pray for blessing and favor on the person until God cultivates a heart of love in you toward that person. Forgiveness does not mean you must become best friends, or that you give the person another opportunity to hurt you as they have in the past, but it does mean you completely release the person from the debt they owe you. You don’t need for them to apologize because you have already released them. When the apology comes, it just means that God has finally moved in their heart.
Here’s another critical truth —> taking your complaint to another person for any reason, whether it be for sympathy, affirmation, to “seek counsel” or because you “need prayer” will only further burrow the root of unforgiveness into your heart. We do this because we want to be heard and understood, we want our feelings to be justified, but make no mistake about it - it is wrong to take your complaints or hurts to a third party. We don’t need to “seek counsel” - we are called to forgive, there’s no counsel needed on the topic. We seek counsel when we need to make a difficult decision, not when we’ve been hurt. We may need prayer for our hearts to be softened enough to forgive, but the details of the hurt to not need to be relayed for us to ask for prayer.
Our Savior is coming in 10 short days. I am preparing my heart for His arrival by rooting out any unchecked forgiveness. It takes time and quiet reflection to think through the past offenses in my life and release them, but it’s worth it - I want my heart to be clean for His arrival. I know I cannot truly love as He loves us until I release all of the hurts from my past, and if I want to represent Christ to the people in my life, I need to stay here for a little while.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗
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