How Many Times Do I Have to Forgive?

“Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Don’t you hate it when someone does something to you that you don’t like, you forgive them, and then they do it again? The truth is this is a part of life, and will be for all of us as long as we live on this planet. And the other thing (that we probably don’t think about quite as much) is that we are often the offending party, and not simply the ones being offended. For this reason, as a Christian, you have to understand what it means to forgive someone.

Peter came up to Jesus one day and asked him, “Jesus, how many times do I have to forgive my friend if he sins against me? As many as seven times?” I’m sure Peter thought he was being pretty generous with this number, but Jesus responded, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Now if you’re quick with math then you may be thinking, “Why 490 times?” But that’s not what Jesus meant. Seventy times seven was a way of saying, “You keep on forgiving him as long as it takes!”

Then he told this story about a servant who owed the king a ridiculous amount of money (Seriously, in the story Jesus says he owed 10,000 talents. One talent was equal to 20 years of labor, so this was about 500 years worth of work. The point is that he owed more than could ever humanly be repaid). But the king took compassion on this man and forgave him all the debt! Now, you realize for the king to forgive this man, meant that HE would have to pay that debt himself (which, hint, hint, is at the heart of what forgiveness means).

So, the servant, just having been forgiven, walks down the street and sees a man who owes him a tiny fraction of what he himself owed. Now you might think, this guy will certainly be gracious and forgive this debt since he has been forgiven such a great debt. But no! Instead, he grabs the man around the neck and begins to choke him. The man begs for mercy, but the servant instead throws him into prison.

Jesus told a bunch of stories like this that were pretty shocking if you were able to see yourself in the story. You see, what Jesus is saying to you and me is that we have been forgiven a debt so great that we would never be able to repay even if we were given all the time in the world. But the problem is that, like the servant, we easily forget how gracious God has been to us and we turn around and refuse to forgive someone who has mildly offended us.

Think about this today: Are you bitter at someone because they have wronged you in some way? If so, take some time now to dwell upon how you have offended God and he has been gracious, patient, kind and loving toward you. Think about the fact that you have received grace, which is getting the exact opposite of what you deserve. Maybe it’s time to forgive some of the people who have hurt you.

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