How Many Times?
Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalm 54:1-7 | Josh 9:3-10:43 | Luke 16:19-17:10 | Proverbs 13:4
Today’s Scripture Focus: Luke 16:19-17:10
“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.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:3-5 NIV).
Whenever we deal with people, there is a good chance that someone will say or do something hurtful or unhelpful. Everyday life brings plenty of opportunities for offense. This is why learning to forgive is so important.
Learning to forgive may be one of the more difficult lessons in the life of following Christ. Forgiving too early, or too often, seems unfair. Forgiving so easily seems to diminish the importance of the hurt we feel. Yet Jesus tells us that if a person comes back to us in repentance, even seven times in one day, we still ought to forgive them.
Forgiveness powerfully releases the one who has sinned against us. It also releases us as we forgive – it’s an important part of the healing process in our own lives. It helps us deal with anger and bitterness. It also reminds us of the never ending love and grace of God—who never tires of us returning to him in repentance saying, “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”
Forgiveness is powerful, and as we learn to release forgiveness to those who have sinned against us, we release ourselves from negative attitudes and patterns of behavior that keep us trapped. Forgive and find freedom.
Like the disciples, this teaching may seem difficult. They said, “Increase our faith!” Sometimes we need the same. Ask God to give you the strength to take the offense to the cross and leave it there. It may seem too difficult for you—but nothing is too difficult for God.
Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving me. Help me to forgive those who have hurt me. Help me to take these wounds to the cross and leave them there. Amen.
Jeff,As a Christian, I am still struggling with how to forgive those (family) that do not repent? This devotion was very helpful but the line that says those that repent caught me. I know you are very busy, but I welcome your thoughts please. I hope you and your family are well. Gayle Whiting
I’m not exactly sure what your particular struggle is, but I could see a couple of possibilities. If I don’t hit the mark, you could clarify.
Is the struggle, “should I forgive someone who hasn’t asked for forgiveness?” For your sake, I would say yes. Jesus includes receiving and releasing forgiveness in the “Lord’s Prayer”–my take on that is that a regular part of our prayer life is searching our hearts and asking forgiveness for ourselves, then searching our hearts for those who have wounded us to release them and us. I think it best to deal with it as soon and as thoroughly as we are able to at the time. If they come seeking forgiveness at some point, we will have already done (or at least begun) the work of lamenting the sin, and dealing with the wounds.
One other issue has to do with the question “Is the person(s) you struggle to forgive, continuing to hurt, wound, or offend? ” Forgiving someone for past offenses, does not mean that you won’t keep appropriate boundaries. You should keep appropriate boundaries –that person should not be allowed to continue to hurt or abuse. Even the Apostle Paul had set up boundaries, and warned others of potential abuse. He took the issue to the Lord, and presumably forgave him (which is suggested by “the Lord will repay him”), but he didn’t forget and he kept appropriate boundaries, even warning others to be careful of the offender. See the verses below:
2 Tim 4:14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
One other thing that people struggle with is the equation of forgiveness with forgetting. The popular adage “forgive and forget” is not all that helpful. There will be many things that we are unable to forget–and it would be unwise to forget. But what is true is that the wounds need to heal or we will be unhealthy. Releasing forgiveness is an important part of that healing process.
The healing process may take time, I have written some about that here:
I hope that is helpful, perhaps I’ve missed the precise reason for your struggle. If so, please feel free to clarify, and I will be happy to comment further.