Anyone who has gone to Sunday School or attended any Bible studies has probably heard how Jesus said we are to forgive someone seventy times seven.
Of course, we know that He did not mean we keep a notebook handy and add up each time we forgive someone until we have forgiven them 490 times.
Okay, that was the 491st time you did that – no more forgiveness.
Clearly He was expressing how we are to have a heart of mercy and forgiveness to others. He went on to say that He forgave us to the degree we forgive others.
For many of us forgiveness is a tough one to do. I have found it fairly easy to forgive when someone acknowledges they hurt me and asks for forgiveness. But when they do not acknowledge they were wrong and I still need to forgive them – that has been hard at times. However, not forgiving harms me more than the one I do not forgive.
Several years ago I came face-to-face with the reality of how much I needed forgiveness myself – and therefore should forgive others.
A few years after my first husband died, I remarried a wonderful man and inherited a teenage son. Raising two girls, I did not have a clue how to deal with a son – especially a teenage son. Today I am thankful to say this young man and I could not be closer. But those first few years had some rough moments.
He was a good young man, but suddenly having me telling him what to do did not always sit well with him.
Some days I became frustrated with him. It was not that he was doing terrible things. It was just things like forgetting to take out the trash or heading out with his friends without helping with the household chores he had been assigned. When I confronted him he would always say he was sorry.
So — one day I told him:
I have had it with you. You keep saying you are sorry – but then you do it again. I’m tired of forgiving you again and again.
After stomping off to my bedroom to cool off, I suddenly felt a reprimand from the Holy Spirit:
So, how many times have I forgiven you for the same thing? Next time you pray, should I say that I have had it with you?
Ouch!!!! That hit very close to home.
Needless to say I went back to this young man and told him I forgave him and we would try again.
(I do want to make this disclaimer. Being physically or mentally abused by someone does not mean we allow that abuse to continue. While we need to forgive the abuser, there is no way we should ever continue to submit to abuse.)