‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’
Luke 17:3-4 (NIV)
Read: Luke 17:1-10
Consider: In an earlier post we considered Jesus’ teaching on caring and loving others and it being expressed in not putting a stumbling-block in another person’s way. Today we look at what Jesus has to say about expressing our love and care by forgiving others the wrongs they have done us.
Why is it that some people find it hard to forgive someone who has wronged them? There are also some who have allowed their lack of forgiveness to built up years of resentment against someone. Some years ago I had a conversation with someone and during our discussion it became apparent that this person had significant antagonism towards a close family member (in fact his brother). I asked him if he had any contact with his brother and the answer was ‘No’. Having listened, I asked if he could forgive his brother the wrong he had done, so as to heal and restore their relationship. This suggestion produced an angry response. Was I wrong in suggesting that he take the initiative and forgive his brother?
In today’s passage we read what Jesus had to say to his disciples about forgiveness. Not only did he tell them to forgive, he told them that they had to keep on forgiving (Luke 17:3-4). Surely Jesus couldn’t mean that if someone wronged you repeatedly you had to keep on forgiving them! Yes, that is exactly what he means. In Ephesians we read: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). In Paul’s letter to the Colossians it says: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
Is there a limit on how many times we should forgive those who have wronged us? In today’s passage Jesus says seven times (way beyond what a Jew would have expected). However, in Matthew’s gospel we read: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ (Matthew 18:21-22). In the Christian life forgiveness of others should not be limited, as if we are keeping a tally of wrongs.
So what is our forgiveness of others to be modelled on? Look again at what it says in Ephesians 4:32 – ‘… forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ and in Colossians 3:13 – ‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you’. Can you see that your capacity to forgive others is not based on your ability to do so, but on the fact that in Christ you have been forgiven and are continually being forgiven by God. If there is someone you need to forgive, someone with whom you would like to re-establish contact, it is time to grasp the nettle. Do it today!
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25).
Pray: Father, give us a true understanding of how much it cost you to provide the means for our forgiveness and that your forgiveness knows no limits. We ask that you would help us to forgive any wrong done to us by others, so that we may be reconciled to them. Amen
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