I don’t know about you, but, while I like the idea of forgiveness,
I find it challenging at times.
“Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” is one of those prayers where the words are easy to say, but it’s much more difficult when we stop and think through what it actually means.
A while ago I realised I was struggling with un-forgiveness towards someone. It surprised me because I’m not usually one to hold a grudge and it wasn’t a massive offence but, in this instance, I was angry. It annoyed me that the person didn’t even seem to have noticed the issue until I pointed it out. Then, their apology, when it finally came, seemed half-hearted. They didn’t seem to grasp the seriousness of what they had done or how it had hurt me.
Just saying sorry didn’t make it all okay.
I was complaining to God about how unfair it all was when I had a second moment of realisation: isn’t that exactly what I often do to Him?
How many times do I do things that hurt Him, but don’t even notice?
How often are my apologies to Him half-hearted, taking His forgiveness for granted?
Do I really grasp the seriousness of sin and its consequences?
In those moments I’m grateful that God doesn’t forgive me the way I sometimes forgive others. His forgiveness is complete.
He doesn’t bear a grudge against us.
He takes our sin and removes it “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)
I’m grateful that His forgiveness isn’t limited,
instead He continues to forgive over and over again.
Jesus says in response to Peter’s question,
“not as many as seven times… but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)
Incidentally, I don’t think Jesus is suggesting a literal limit of forgiving 490 times.
By that point, we would probably have lost count!
I think His point is we should keep on forgiving.
Just as God forgives us.
I’m glad He doesn’t set a limit on me,
so why should I set a limit on others?
This doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Especially where the consequences of the sin have been more serious.
When we’ve been wounded deeply.
Where we have lasting scars.
In Matthew 18, Jesus shares a parable. A servant is in debt to his master, and it is a massive debt, one that he will never be able to pay. To the servant’s amazement, the master shows mercy and cancels his debt! You would expect the servant to be grateful, but instead he goes out and finds another servant who owes him a small amount of money and, ignoring the man’s pleas for mercy, throws him into prison until the debt is paid.
The servant’s behaviour seems crazy!
How can he continue to pursue such a small debt when he has been forgiven so much?
I admit though that I used to struggle with that story.
The problem was I felt the sins I was being asked to forgive
were bigger than any sins I had committed.
I felt that I was being forgiven a small amount,
but being asked to forgive a much bigger debt,
and it seemed unfair.
Finally God opened my eyes to the truth:
My debt was a massive one.
Not because the things I had done were terrible by human standards,
but because they were against Him, the holy and righteous God.
It was a debt I could not pay.
No amount of good deeds or hard work would balance the books in my favor.
There was nothing I could do to make it right.
My situation was just as hopeless as the servant’s in the story, and I needed God’s mercy.
Fortunately, that is exactly what He offers!
John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
If I really understood this mercy,
and took hold of it,
I had to offer the same mercy to others.
I realised that forgiveness is not denying the hurt, or saying that it didn’t matter,
rather it’s handing it over to God and letting Him be the judge.
Forgiveness is trusting Him to deal with the sin against me instead of trying to make it right by myself.
I found that forgiveness was a process.
It wasn’t something that happened all at once,
but over a period of time I was able to let go and truly forgive.
The good news is that we don’t need to do it by ourselves.
God gives us His Spirit to help us.
As we grow in Him, “as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved,” (Colossians 3:12)
we understand His forgiveness more deeply,
through which He equips us to follow His example and extend that same forgiveness to others.
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
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