Engage the Power of Forgiveness
Pastor Phillip O’Reilly
In Matthew 18, Peter asks the infamous forgiveness question. “How many times should I forgive a day? 7 times?” Now, Peter probably thought he was going to wow Jesus with his graciousness. Back then, religious leaders thought that if you were really generous, you’d forgive someone three times. So, Peter goes to Jesus and throws out the number seven. And he probably didn’t get the answer he was looking for.
Because Jesus began to speak about real forgiveness. And this is where we learn to forgive “70 times 7”.
The thing is, there is no number. There is no line at which our forgiving quota gets met. There is no percentage that means we are officially done forgiving. Why? Because we are forgiven. Every. Single. Time. And Jesus died on the cross knowing that his sacrifice meant forgiving us. Every. Single Time. Not just a few times.
This seems impossible. Our broken nature tells us to hang on to hurt, to hold grudges, to keep lists of the ways we were wronged. Our selfishness makes us think that some things and some people don’t “deserve” our forgiveness. But – that’s not the purpose of forgiveness. The purpose of forgiveness isn’t to set others free, it’s to set ourselves free.
First, we have to stop keeping score and start losing count. When we learn about love in 1 Corinthains 13, we are told in no uncertain terms that love keeps no record of wrong. No record. God does not keep lists of our wrongs we’ve committed against Him. And, if we’re being honest, those lists would be ridiculously long. You see, when He forgave, when He sent Jesus to die so we didn’t have to, our sins (past, present, and future) are completely erased. They’re thrown into the sea. They’re as far away from us as the east from the west.
Second, we have to live under the idea that not forgiving is unforgivable. It’s right there in Matthew 6, “And when you pray, make sure you forgive the faults of others so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father withholds forgiveness from you.” We don’t forgive because others deserve it, but we are called to forgive because we’ve been forgiven. We have been set free, we have been given countless chances. We have been taken back into grace time after time. And we must do the same for others.
Third, realize forgiveness is the best brought out by the worst. This world is broken, and as a result of that brokenness, we will get hurt. When you choose to live a life of love, you will get wounded. The good part about all of that is that forgiveness causes life and hope and love to continue to flow out of us, despite the darkness we’ve endured – the best brought out by the worst.
Fourth, keep tapping. Keep pressing, keep going full force, keep forgiving. 70 times 7. Over and over again. If we hold hurt in our hearts and do not forgive, the enemy wins. If we keep grudges and refuse to let go and move onto to brighter things, we are cutting ourselves off from the lives we were intended to live.
Fifth, we get to release the power. When we forgive, we release the enemy of his power. When we forgive, we take back our stories, we claim hold over our hurt, we proudly display our scars in light and covered in flowers. When we forgive, we set our hearts free from the prison that resentment builds.
So, we forgive. Again and again and again and again.
“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” – Psalm 103:10-12.